My brother and I were born eleven years and one day apart. He already had two older sisters, so the arrival of a baby sister was likely not something to get excited about. As a kid, I vacillated between awe and fear of him. He was so cool, so athletic, so artistic. And yet, so prone to putting his chubby little sister in a half nelson. It was best to admire from a distance, I learned.
Relationships with siblings grow and change. This is true for everyone, I suppose, but it feels magnified when there is such a large age difference between siblings. Their childhood is a completely different version than mine, and often their stories and memories do not include me. As I grew up, my relationship with my brother and sisters changed dramatically. The individual relationships that I have with each of my siblings have come so far from the days of a baby sister tagging along after young adults. Each relationship is special to me, but I marvel the most at the way the dynamic has changed between my brother and I.
As newlyweds, Mike and I moved to Nashville. Donnie and his young family had moved there just a couple of years earlier. Mike and Donnie became very close, each finding in the other the brother they never had. We looked up to Donnie, and his wife, Kim, as models of marriage and family life. They had fun with each other and they had fun with their kids. They shared their struggles with money with us, in hopes that we wouldn't make the same mistakes. They listened, they advised, they made their home our home, too. There are so many things I miss about living in Nashville, but none of them compare to how much I miss having my brother just around the corner.
When we visited them just a few weeks ago, I realized that Mike and I are in the same season of life that Donnie and Kim were in when we moved to Tennessee. My nephew, who was a preschooler when we first married, is driving now. My niece isn't far behind. Looking back over the pictures I took on our trip, I came across this one and it just melted my heart. My big brother and my babies. Guiding them along, just as he continues to guide me.