One of my fondest memories as a child was playing with my little brother, Joshua. At the time, Toy Story had just come to video, and Joshua was infatuated with the movie, which included the song “You’ve got a friend”.
Josh did his best to sing along to the song. Yet, he could only mutter out “youga frenninme!” while he looked over at me.
It’s been several years since I was able to hold my little brother in my arms. Now standing 6’5″, he comfortably towers over me and refuses to answer to “little brother”.
I’ve tried on countless occasions to explain to him the reason he’ll ‘always be my little brother’ to no avail. In his mind, height dictates the pecking order – in our family, anyway.
In 2019, I took the opportunity to return home, to Ohio, to reconnect with my family and settle down after spending some time abroad. It had been years since I left the state, and I was curious to see how the city had changed in my absence.
During that season, I spent a lot of time with Joshua. Still a bit startled he’s no longer my ‘little brother’ every time I looked over and saw a towering giant of a young man. We spent many hours in conversation, in which we talked about everything siblings should; the past, present, and future.
We talked about lessons we’ve learned over the years, which included his journey through high school. He shared some of his joys; telling me about his accomplishments at work, or the way he’d spend time with his friends.
One evening, we took a ride in the car together for one of our infamous late-night drive-thru runs. “You’ve got a friend” started to play. Joshua, no longer an infant, now knew all of the words to the song – and same them beautifully.
During those moments, I realized just how much I missed him. I missed seeing many of the moments that were important to him; driving a car for the first time, coming home from his first day at work, or having a conversation after he came home from a…date.
I won’t ever forget the morning my phone rang, and I saw his name on my screen.
“Josh is supposed to be in school…” I thought, while answering the call.
“Aaron, I got into a car accident on 315…”
It was moments like those that I realized time and distance couldn’t break the bond shared between brothers, as I was the first person he called to help guide him through the situation; instructing him to drive the battered car to my parking lot.
The car pulled up, leaking coolant and fluids. Josh emerged from the car with a stressed-out look on his face.
“Hungry?” I asked.
“Yeah.” he said.
“Come on in. Food’s on the table.”
Not a lot needed to be said that day. More than anything, I was glad he was safe and surrounded by the tank-like security of a Volvo wagon.
As a big brother, I’ve often struggled to find the balance between living my own life, and contributing to that of my younger siblings. I’ve had many moments, of which I’ve hoped they can someday also experience. Beauty, joy, sensation, and culture. When I returned home, I felt a twinge of guilt for not having spent enough time being involved in their lives.
In some ways, that guilt was quickly extinguished after the first conversation I had with my siblings; they’re grown up remarkably well, experience a lot of joy, and are authentically loved and cared for by a beautiful community of family, friends, and co-workers.
Today, I watched Joshua go on a new adventure; leaving Ohio to begin basic training for the United States Air Force.
As his big brother, I’m proud to see Joshua begin a new chapter in his life. One which will last him many years, and open a lot of exciting opportunities.
We shared one last conversation on FaceTime, in which we both gave each other parting words of encouragement and advice.
And just like that, off he went.
While one part of me is sad to see him go, I look forward to the day where we sit around a table – somewhere in the world – and share of our adventures. This time, he’ll be the one to lead the conversation, tell the jokes, and share the dreams of his which have begun to shape his reality.
You’re my brother and I love you, Joshua.
…and you’ll always be my little brother.