In a couple of Mondays, my kid brother will load his family in a moving truck and hit the east coast to live in upstate New York.
Growing up, I thought families always lived spread throughout the country.
All of my aunts and uncles were scattered across a map of the United States and it made an interesting list of target vacation spots.
Colorado in the summer. Florida in the winter. Illinois for Thanksgiving. Missouri for Christmas.
When my own siblings and I came of age, we all started in different spots: Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky. My brother even toured with rock bands for several years and could at any moment be anywhere.
But in the last decade, we all settled down and somehow ended up within 20 miles of each other.
It’s funny how fast you will allow yourself to take things for granted.
So as we clean out his house and plan the litany of ‘so long… for now’ gatherings, the reality is starting to settle in that pretty soon when he picks up the phone, he will be too far away for a spur of the moment meal or movie.
And the truth is, I have come to rely on him for way more than that.
He pointed out to me a few years ago that he is the sibling we all expect to show up exactly when needed at short beck and call. And he is right.
We expect him to because he always does.
And it’s not because we deserve it.
My parents told me over and over growing up: “You better be nice to him. One day he is going to be a lot bigger than you.”
I was slow to heed that advice and took advantage of my greater height and weight throughout our childhood. (I have one weirdly specific memory of biting him. He still owes me for that.)
But Mom and Dad were right. He makes me look especially shrimpy when we stand side by side now. He could pummel me if he wanted. But he doesn’t. Most of the time he chooses to only outperform me in areas of wit and generosity.
When the opportunity for him to move became available, I was one of his first calls.
I was on my patio grilling at the time. I was outwardly supportive – because I do think this is a great move they are making – but the comparison was obvious. Just like the smothered chicken over the flame that evening, I knew I’d be dead meat without my bro around.
Sure. We will text and chat and share an HBO GO password regardless of which states we reside in. But it will take a lot of time to adjust to not having him three neighborhoods away.
As I watch my own kids seizing in fits of laughter while bouncing each other on our trampoline this afternoon, I have to keep myself from interrupting them to make my own selfish plea.
“Never get used to this!” I want to yell. “Never think this proximity is promised. Be happy for every moment you have together for as short or as long as it lasts.”
I don’t interrupt, though. I just smile and take a mental snapshot of the moment.
Some lessons are only learned the hard way – when a moving truck rolls into the driveway.