I have a very complicated family tree. On my mother’s side, I have 2 older sisters and an older brother. On my father’s side, I have one older brother. I never met my two older sisters because my mom had them really young (a story for another time), but I do know my two older brothers.
My older brother on my mom’s side left the house for Boston when I was around nine years old, so I was the oldest in the house for half of my life. When people ask “Are you the oldest, middle, youngest, or only child?” I don’t know how to answer. To me I am the oldest, but to the world, I am the middle child.
I have three younger brothers. I live with two of them while the youngest one lives with my dad. The complicated family tree also extends to aunts, uncles, and cousins but we’re not going there on this blog post.
Today I want to talk about the stress I endure by being the middle-oldest sister in the house. I’m still enjoying the very long break that college gifts me with after three months of solid torture and hair-pulling stress. I woke up at a ghastly hour (12PM; please don’t judge me). My youngest brother pulled at my arm to remind me that he has a basketball game, and he has to get to school at 1PM. My phone reads: 12:24, and I was still half asleep. He said that our mother wanted me to go with him, but that wasn’t not about to happen.
I know. It was completely terrible of me to let my 11 year old brother go out alone into the big-bad streets of Brooklyn for school while I lie down in the comforts of my bed. But, I literally wasn’t going. My mind, my heart, my soul said no. When everything in me says no, my feet are not touching concrete. So I strictly told him to text me everything: when he got on and off the bus, when he got in the school, when the game starts and ends, and when he’s heading back home. I thought it was an impeccable system, and I was quite happy with myself for being such a responsible older sister.
As I was enjoying my time alone in the house, making delicious scrambled eggs with green tea, I hear the door click. It was my mom. I started to panic, but I couldn’t put the egg carton away on time, so I just stood there as the door swung open. It wasn’t her. It was my 16 year old brother towering behind the doorway. I didn’t know I was holding my breathe until I saw his face.
Again, everything was right with the world. That is until I heard another click at the door, and I knew it was my mother coming home from work. Fear gripped my throat so tightly. I jumped on my bed and pretended that I was asleep. It’s something I always do when she comes home as a joke of sorts, she always knows I’m not asleep, but it’s still funny to do. This time she wasn’t laughing because she saw that I wasn’t at the game with my little brother.
The game was a test of sorts to see if she could have a job, but also trust me to take more responsibilities over my siblings. I felt terribly, and I tried to call my brother to see if he was okay, but there was no answer. I called many times and the phone was silent. I started to imagine all the bad things that could’ve happened to him: him getting kidnapped, him getting jumped, him getting robbed. The images jumped at me faster than I could push them away.
And what if any of that happened because I was a selfish sister?
My mom came into my room calmer than before and she asked me to call my little brother. Of course, I tried to change the subject and talk about something else because she would only get mad and worried if I told her he wasn’t answering the phone. She didn’t forget, and as she left my room, she asked if I could call him.
I panicked and panicked and panicked. I called and called and called. I texted and texted and texted. Radio silence. What if something really did happen to him, and I wasn’t there to protect him? He’s only 11. A kid. How could I be so reckless and thoughtless? I vowed then and there to put him first because he’s my little brother and one of the most important people in my world. I should always be there for him. Right? Right.
My mother came in my room again and asked if he answered the phone, I said no, and she left with a distraught face. I knew I’d get a good slap if my brother didn’t call within the hour. I stared at my phone for the next half and hour, waiting and hoping to see his name appear on the screen. Hoping he wasn’t kidnapped or jumped or robbed. That no one touched his sweet face.
Then I saw his name appear on my screen, and I immediately answered: CALL ME NOW. NOW. NOOOOWWW. He called me and I asked him if he was okay and why he didn’t pick up. He explained everything calmly having no idea that on the other side of Brooklyn, I was grieving his loss and he wasn’t even lost. I told him that our mom was upset because I didn’t go and I asked him again if he wanted me to go to the game. He said “yeah I wanted you to go, but since you didn’t, I didn’t want to force you.”
I felt like the worst person in the world. Family is there for each other even if they don’t want to be there. Even if they’d rather get pinched 1000 times, they always show up. The real families do anyway. I told him that he should have been honest about whether he wanted me to come or not, but that didn’t matter, because I should have went. I gave the phone to my mom so she could hear his voice and not get worried about him, and he said he was heading home with a friend and his mom. I felt bad that he didn’t have anyone there like the other kids, but next time, I’ll be there too.
“We lost,” my little brother said over the phone. “Terribly.” I laughed. I was happy that he was joking around. When you think that something happened to someone you love, you begin to think of everything: your last words, your favorite memories, what you’d want to say to them if you could see them again. It’s morbid, but it reminds you of what you need to be grateful for – the now. It’s all we get, it’s all the universe gifts us with. Hold on to the now, and hold on tight, because it always disappears until it’s nothing but warm memories and old thoughts.