Wednesday, December 9, 2015

When ESPN meets the Hallmark Channel

I will never forget when my parent’s mentioned to me that my younger brother was dating. My brother had never dated. In my mind the kid was going to graduate college, become a police officer, make detective and then finally marry someone when he was about 40. I was happy with that plan. After all he was my little brother which meant that his primary functions for the past 21 years had been to drive me crazy and play video games. So I was confident that whomever he was dating was just a fluke. I had a plan for him and that plan didn’t involve a girl.

I soon found out that I actually knew his girlfriend. That the two of us had gone to high school together but she was younger than me and I didn’t interact with her that much. I feared that this girl my brother was dating was going to make him stay in that small Northern farm town. I heard the way he talked about her and how much my family was beginning to fall in love with her… And so was he.

I was brash, loud, obnoxious and sarcastic. She was quiet, polite, the girl next door and never had her mouth washed out with soap. I was brunette, short and plus-sized. She was blonde, tall and thin. I was a Yankees fan…. She rooted for Boston (shudders).

I watched from 1200 miles away as my brother fell in love with, what I truly believed, was the girl who was going to change my family. She sat at my seat for family dinners… She cooked in the kitchen with my mom (Yes, given I didn’t cook with my mom but I knew how to stand in the kitchen and lick the spoons)… She watched tv with my Dad… She was a beautiful blonde with a wardrobe I had only seen in magazines and she was becoming a part of my family. It scared me.

After six months I got a phone call. It was my brother and he happily declared “We’re engaged!!” I immediately went into a tirade on how he was ruining his life… and he immediately took me off speaker phone. (There should be a warning when someone calls you like that by the way.) I knew I had hurt him and I knew I was out of line but I stood my ground. This was my baby brother. This was the guy I called when I was having a complete come-apart and he was the only one who could stop it. This was the guy I could talk baseball with for hours. This was the guy who I looked up to (both literally and figuratively). And now he was getting married to a girl who was going to take him away.

She asked me to be a bridesmaid and I accepted the invitation. I could see how happy she made my brother. I could see how her presence in my parent’s house made everyone light up and laugh. I knew that she was going to have our last name and that I was going to have a sister-in-law. What I didn’t know at the time though was in time I would never say “in-law” when referring to her. That was a mere technicality.

Fast forward a few years, a couple thousand miles, new zip codes, new careers and new life experiences. We went from living in separate states to living two towns apart. We went from infrequent Facebook messages to dinner dates. Two people that couldn’t be more different sharing a last name. The way I see it I’m ESPN… And she’s the Hallmark channel. How can these two polar opposites find a middle ground and have anything in common? Easy. You realize that every relationship between two people needs a little bit of each in it. 

Last week I received a frantic phone call at work from my brother and all I heard was, “Lindsay’s heading to the hospital. Straight to labor and delivery. I don’t know anything else. I’m rushing there now.” She wasn’t due for another 8 weeks. My nephew couldn’t come now and she wasn’t ready to have a baby. I knew she was alone. I knew she was scared. I knew I had to be there. So I walked away from work, got into my car and drove like a maniac to the hospital in rush hour traffic. I cursed every intersection and every red light. My grip on the steering wheel was leaving an impression in the leather. In my mind all I could think of was her by herself in the hospital. And it broke my heart. She is my brother’s best friend. She is the mother of my unborn nephew. She is my sister.

So if there was a traffic law in the book… I gladly broke it. And I made it to the hospital in one piece. I ran to the elevator and upon emerging through the doors I learned she was having tests done but she was ok. And the baby was ok. When I went into her room she was insistent on telling me, with tears in her eyes, just how upset she was that we had rushed to the hospital for nothing. And I held back tears as I said that it “was not for nothing… It was for my sister.”

They say childhood is when you learn the most. Perhaps I learned how to hold a spoon and how to walk. I learned how to read and how to act properly in public (wear pants). But it wasn't until adulthood that I realized this is the time that all the lessons are really learned. You learn what it means to have your heart broken. You learn what it means to have a dream taken from you. You learn what it takes to be a friend. You learn what you want in life and who you are as a person. And you learn that the people in your life come and go... And sometimes the ones you don't think will stay are the ones who you can't imagine life without. 

There are several cases in my life that I wish I could go back in time and say, "You were right." Whether it was a hunch on the newest "boy" I was dating or a gut feeling about a relationship I was in... I have always liked being able to say "You were right, Kristen." I was right that the new girl in my brother's life was going to take him away. I was right that my family would never be the same. And I was right that she was going to change everything.

And I look forward to the times I can sit with my nephew in my lap and tell him the story of how his Mommy and Tin-Tin were never, ever friends. God didn't want them to be friends... He wanted them to be sisters. 


William O'Hare said...

Wow. This is one of your best!

William O'Hare said...

Wow. This is one of your best!