In my very earliest memories, my brother Alex is there. Sometimes I confuse memory with pictures I’ve seen of myself as a tiny girl, but I definitely remember finding out I had a baby brother. As an all-girl four-year-old, all I wanted was a sister. But all that changed when Mama carried him home. From the beginning he was always just mine. My baby. Albeit we are only four years apart, I asked repeatedly when he would be big enough so he could play with me. In my mind, Alex is right up there with my own daughter on the cute scale. He just had the sweetest face in the world, and the thickest dirty-blonde hair. I can still picture him toddling around and remember the sound of little baby voice. Alex has always been very particular about things. For example, Alex hated pajamas with the feet in them, but he still wanted his feet covered. So Mama cut the feet out of the pajamas and put socks on him instead. He was then just as happy as could be. He wore socks to the pool until high school. I swear we joked about never even seeing his feet until he was 16 years old.
When I went to to school in the fall around the time Alex turned one, he would walk around confused and call for me. His little voice calling for me. It still to this day breaks my big-sister heart. But he gave me my only nickname, which sounds a bit like “saucy” or sometimes “say-see.” My family still calls me this sometimes and it warms my heart. I have flashes of memory of his quite little smile, his ability to fold himself up, all knees and limbs and elbows and play quietly and methodically with all things boy. One of our family’s favorite pictures is one of Alex laying under the front end of his big battery-powered truck. It was in the backyard and I can’t remember if it was sunny or overcast, but he carried out all his play tools and he was “workin'” on his truck. I think he was maybe four or five. We have a very similar shot of him at 22 or 23 doing that very same thing, with a smile of pure happiness on his face, and it makes my Mom and I both tear up.
The love I have for my brother is something rare. We can both recall two fights we’ve been in our whole existence. One during the teenage years, and one in college. They both ended with us in tears hugging each other and crying we’re sorry. We are just bound. I’m proud of him like he is my own child. I worry over, celebrate with, applaud, encourage, commiserate, cry, and laugh together with no one else, like I do with my brother. We are both a little different from everyone else, and until I found Joseph, no one quite got me like Alex does. He knows my heart. He knows my humor. He pushes me to be better and stronger. He is an observer, and I’ve said it a million times, but he truly embodies the best parts of all of us. I envy his patience and ability to be laid back. Like our Mother, you know for a fact if one of them is on your ass, you definitely deserve it. He is calculated and loyal. Brilliant and wondrous. Alex is a man after God’s own heart.
Somehow my tiny brother is a grown man. He has been for a long time. He is an old soul with a wise and gentle countenance. Now he is what feels like a million miles away in a war zone in a desert. Like my cousins and many of our men before him, he serves his country. Mom and I gush over how much we love seeing his smiling face when we get to chat with him on FaceTime. Each conversation is a blessing. In my mind, he is still 8 years old, sitting with me on the front seat of the bus. I leave the rowdiness of the back in answer to his nose peeking over the top of the seat looking for me. I have my arm wrapped all the way around him, patting his little leg. He looks up at me and I can’t quite place the expression, but we are just bound.
My sweet brother, we are bound, always. All my love.