Earlier this week I had a dream about my brother.
I remember when Tim was a baby. I watched him in his little swing and wondered, “When will he be a real person?”. Of course, he was a real person, but in my five-year-old mind I wanted to know when we could be friends. When could we play together, talk together, and understand each other?
As Tim grew out of his toddler years, we did become friends, and we did a lot together. My two older sisters liked to hang out, so that left me and Tim to find our own things to do. Sometimes, we were quite creative. I remember playing the “dolphin taxi game” one summer whenever we were at the beach. I was the dolphin who acted as a taxi and gave Tim rides to where he needed to go. Our plot was much more developed than that, but I can’t remember the details anymore.
I remember that every time we went to the Northwest Michigan Fair, or any other amusement park, I liked to go on the kiddie rides with Tim. I was big enough for the “real” rides, but he wasn’t and I was completely content to ride in circles on cars and boats. That lasted until one trip to Michigan Adventure when the man controlling the ride actually yelled at me because I was “too big”.
As I graduated from elementary school and moved on to Junior High, my memories with Tim start to fade. Between busier classes, school sports, and new friends in the youth group at church, I started spending less time with my brother.
Junior High turned into high school and I started spending my summers working at a Bible camp. Church kept me busy with mission trips and youth group. School kept me busy with AP classes, orchestra, and the National Honor Society. Then there was boy drama and friend drama and all sorts of time-consuming and emotionally draining…well…drama. And I had so many other things on my mind that I let my brother slip out.
I never stopped liking Tim. I never stopped thinking of him as my little brother or as my friend. But I inadvertently turned my back to him as I turned my focus to everything else. Even when I was home I was busy with homework, chatting with peers online, or locked in my own room journaling and reading.
And I moved on, without thinking, and left Tim behind. When his best friend switched schools, I wasn’t really there. When he made the big transition to junior high, I didn’t ask him about how it went or even find out if he was nervous. When he had a job that he hated, I didn’t know what he did there or why he hated it so much. Without thinking twice, I missed out on everything that was going on in his life, and I didn’t bother to share with him what was going on in mine.
Seven years have gone by since I graduated from high school and went away to college. For seven years I haven’t been able to do much with Tim because I haven’t been at home. But for seven years before that I had already left him. And now I can’t go back. Sure, there are emails. There are occasional three-day visits when Dan and I have to figure out how to visit about 24 relatives, a few friends, and somehow make time for Lydia (and Mommy) to take naps. So now, as I look back, I miss it.
I miss the dolphin taxi game. I miss the kiddie rides at the Fair. I miss pretending to be the lamb in the car on long trips when Tim would feed me my “milk” from an empty pop bottle. I miss those walks to the Boardman Lake where we fed our dog spicy Cheetos. I miss being the quiet shy ones who didn’t have to be quiet or shy when it was just us. I miss those seven years when I blew it and ignored Tim because I was too involved in all the other bright and flashy things going on around me.
So you out there who are still at home with your siblings: please don’t blow it. Don’t ignore your siblings because they’re always around, because they’re younger or “less mature”, or because your other friends seem more interesting. Talk to them, play with them, love them, and pray for them. Someday you may need them or they may need you and you may look back and realize you have a seven-year hole to fill.
To you parents, I encourage you not to stop telling your children what my mom always told us when we were fighting. Someday, you’ll move out, you won’t get to see each other even though you’ll want to, and you’ll miss it.