In an effort to stay connected across the miles over which my family is scattered, I often find myself immersed in a chain of emails or slurry of group texts, sharing pictures, announcements and events. Though actual attendance would be preferable, I appreciate the opportunity to bear witness even from afar to the special (and the ordinary) moments in the lives of those I love. Yesterday’s images captured cousin cuteness with the inaugural snapshot of the sons of my brothers, rest and recuperation as the son of my sister recovered from a tonsillectomy and date night with my husband, depicting one of our favorite views over Muskegon Lake.
When it was questioned if this could really be Michigan, I assured that it indeed was and supported that statement with a Pure Michigan moment that happened a few minutes later, as the sun set.
Which led to the comment from my younger older brother (in a twist, the father to the older of the sons of my brothers) “You have the sunset in a wine glass, blog it.”
This is not the first time a specific challenge has been extended to me by this sibling. In fact, I can trace many of the paths along my life journey back to a query, a suggestion or a dare from him.
Having run cross-country in high school and college, my brother knew personally the joys of the sport and wanted to share them with me. Taking the clever approach of a wager rather than a mandate, which may have been resisted, he ventured that, should I fail to make the basketball team as a freshman, I should at least give cross-country one season. 20 years later, I am grateful for the bet that sparked my love of running, which endures still today.
Again sharing his experience, this time of the east coast liberal arts college variety, he took me on tours of Brown and Providence College during high school and, while these were not ultimately the destination for my higher education, I was exposed to rowing during these visits, a sport that was a significant piece of my college experience.
On a much more delayed schedule, he introduced me to the beauty of a lettuce leaf, the importance of growing food and the adoration that one could have for their farmers. Given that the initial experience took place at Seed Savers Exchange, it is fitting that the lesson took time to germinate. Twelve years after I observed with quiet confusion as my brother shed tears over Bibb lettuce, I was in the front row, listening to Joel Salatin speak at a sustainability conference, hanging on his every word. When he wished for all our carrots to grow long and straight, I felt my own tears swell and knew then that my brother had seen for so long the magic of the farm and the beauty of food grown with love that I was only just realizing.
Whether motivated by a desire to keep his own dreams alive through me, a sense of obligation to take up a fatherly role when ours passed from this world, simply him sharing his own experience or keeping me close in hopes of pilfering a memory, I am grateful for his presence and his proposals, his ideas and inspiration and his ability to see the beauty within, anticipate potential and knack for encouraging me to take the next step on my journey.
My matriculation to high school, and his graduation from college were marked by the loss of our father. Perhaps in part coincidental to the immediate post-grad state of flux, but ultimately an act of true big-brother-ship, he returned home. From chauffeuring me to school, cooking late night meals, cheering on my cross-country team and “helping” with last minute homework assignments, those few months carry some of my best memories during a time that would have been otherwise only marked by sadness.
Even after moving away, he upheld his paternal role, hosting me for a summer during high school. He took the time to organize a summer filled with strings camp, part-time jobs, humid midnight runs over the Mississippi River, bike rides through the Twin Cities, a road trip to Iowa for lettuce appreciation 101 and mastery of manual transmission in the Dodge Omni, adding once again to the most meaningful of memories.
Years later, the support continued as he walked me down the aisle (or along the beach as it was) on my wedding day, embracing my husband as brother and shedding happy tear for the special event.
As the wine glass enhances without obstructing the sunset, my brother has allowed me to shine without stealing the spotlight, shown me paths without forcing my way, created opportunities and celebrated victories selflessly. For this I am ever grateful and am always ready to accept the next brotherly bet.
May we all appreciate those who are the wine glass to our sunset, gently framing our lives while allowing our inner beauty to shine through.