I have a confession to make: ever since I went to college 10 hours away from home, I have regretted leaving my little brother to pursue my studies. I think that changing my relationships with people to pursue new places and opportunities has always been a source of regret in my life, but the person that I feel it affected the most was my little brother.
He was starting high school the Fall I started college, and our age gap of 3.5 years may seem like a lot, it was so natural for us to have a close friendship. When we were little, we always played together. Being the third and fourth (and two youngest) kids in our family put us together a lot. We spent hours in the summer days building legos, playing cars, trains, and playing with the younger neighborhood kids outside. When our sisters had soccer games in the Autumn, we would explore whatever park we were at. My older sisters had their own friends and their own sleepovers. I was always booted from the room we shared to spend the sleepovers in my brother’s room. One sleepover we put the old bunk-bed back together and I spent several months sleeping on the top bunk and chatting with my brother until we fell asleep at night. On family road trips we always shared the middle bench seat and often a set of headphones to listen to all of our favorite songs. We had all the same favorite TV shows, so that precious 30 minutes of television we were allowed was often spent together. And we also both are baseball fans; I was always thrilled to watch his games (since my baseball skills were limited) and we would catch as many pro games on TV and in person as we could.
Thinking back I wonder if things started changing when I started middle school. I think he must have realized that I was going to leave him someday, when he saw me making phone calls to boys. He ran around the neighborhood shouting, “Susanna likes _______!” Which is a crushing sort of thing to do to a middle school girl. But then we remained close even when I was in high school attending various youth groups; I was even really excited for the time when he would be old enough to also be in my youth groups. I never formally dated anyone in high school and I think that made him happy. Both of our other sisters had dated some. He asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor my Junior year of high school (Confirmations are in middle school in the Archdiocese of St. Louis), and I accepted. I was honored, and knew that I had an even greater responsibility to him than that of his sister.
Then I chose to go to college 10 hours away. All summer before I left, he told me that he just knew that I was going to meet a man at college and move away forever. I did. I came home from college that first summer dating M. My brother was pretty annoyed at me; he told me that I was too young to be dating and discerning marriage with someone. Then M and I broke up and my brother told me that it served me right. Perhaps I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to notice that my brother had missed me and maybe wanted to spend time with me when I was not mourning and moping about my heart. I am sorry I was such a jerk that summer. Though we did have a phone conversation while I was in Austria that Fall semester where he apologized to me for being mad at me for dating; you see he had a crush and ended up dating her.
By the time I got back from studying abroad, I was dating M again. Then I spent half of my break with M visiting our house or me visiting his in Michigan. Then I stayed all summer in Steubenville, and then again the next summer. The longest I spent at home between my first summer of college break and my wedding was the four weeks before my wedding, and by then he already knew that he had lost me.
He claims that he does not do well keeping in touch especially through the phone, and honestly our best conversations since I was married have been during in person visits. And I cherish any contact he has with me, be it a text, a rare phone call, or the in person visits. I hoped that one day we might end up back in St. Louis and I would see more of my family, but that has not happened. For now, I must be content being hundreds of miles away.
You see the thing about my brother is that he is so lovable; he is funny, intelligent, and caring. He knows how to treat a lady (he better with three older sisters!). He has his strong Catholic faith. He works through his weaknesses. He does not need me to be there in person to be who God created him to be, but he does need me as a loving sister who prays for him daily. And that I do, and maybe one day I will be able to stop regretting leaving our family home when he was just fourteen. Because if we both get to Heaven, then we can be together forever.