For My Brother, Peter

At least once a week, my phone rings and it’s my big brother, Peter.  And every time he calls, the first thing I say is, “I meant to call you!”  And I did.  I meant to call him, but it slips my mind and the routine of the day keeps me from picking up the phone and calling my brother.

But he never forgets me, which makes me feel bad for a couple of hours until the routine of the day picks back up and I go through another seven daily routines and the phone rings again and…it’s my brother.  And, once more, I’m saying (sincerely), “I meant to call you!”

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My brother and our mom

My brother was likely named for Jesus’s disciple, Peter, who was the rock on which the church was built.  Peter of Biblical history was adventurous, was willing to step from the boat and walk on water, even if for only a couple of steps before he started to sink.  He denied Christ three times and, then, when Christ was resurrected, Peter said that he loved Jesus three times.

My brother lives up to his namesake in so many ways.  He is brave, adventurous.  He is willing to take the risks needed to live a full life and to help others find the best quality within theirs.  He is a profound Christian, one whom truly believes and acts upon his beliefs

I love my brother. No comma but.  No qualification.  Nothing more than that.  Love.

When I was seven years old and living in Germany, my brother and I were at the American movie theater, apparently waiting for Ronald McDonald…I think.  Can’t remember.  Doesn’t matter.  What matters is that a boy from my class, probably the truest bully I ever met other than myself (another blog..another story…another day) came up and spat on my dress, saying that it was an ugly dress.

Within a heartbeat, my brother exploded.  My brother who is about five years older than me became an animalistic young man and beat the snot out of that little boy.  Yeah, the kid was five years younger than my brother.  and the little boy’s grandmother started screaming at my brother who turned to her and calmly said, “He spat on my little sister’s dress.”

End of story.  End of moment.  Our parents picked us up right after that and Peter and I never saw Ronald McDonald that day.  And Peter never got in trouble because…the grandmother never said anything?  Our parents didn’t listen to her rantings if she did say something which I can’t remember?  That was thirty-six years ago.  It doesn’t matter.

Somewhere after that moment, Peter took me to explore the local junkyard.  I don’t know how our parents had no idea that we were gone to go junkyard-exploring.  But we did.  I don’t remember much other than waking up and down small hills of trash and leaping down a precipice of junk.  Peter taught me about courage that day.  He pulled me out of the leash of my mother’s anxiety and helped me find some modicum of bravery and leap.

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Peter and Sharon at their son’s wedding

As our childhood evaporated and Peter went to high school, our paths started to diverge.  Eventually, he started working, first with a friend who owned his own lawn care business and, then, at the lake behind our house in Washington DC (earlier blog about a carousel relates to this one).  By this point, Peter was my nemesis.  Our days of junkyard exploring had disintegrated into sibling fights and the distance between us was welcome.

But, every now and then, Peter and I were able to reunite and the animosity that existed between us as an unwelcome, middle sibling, fell apart and we were brother and sister again.  We explored the creeks surrounding our house, a creek that will eventually feature prominently in the novel I have written and love and am trying to find the energy to edit so that I can possibly (please God) get published.  Peter’s job allowed the family to take canoes for free and we spent many wonderful hours paddling around the waterways of Lake Accotink, finding the nesting sites of Canadian geese, a great blue heron, and other water birds.

When Peter went to college, the orbits of our sibling world briefly collapsed.  The freedom from his teasing was so alluring that I failed to realize how much of a presence he made in our parents’ house.  I will never forget the day our parents took Peter to his university the first day of his freshmen year.  We moved him in to his dorm; our parents helped him register for classes, and then we explored the campus of the university for a while.  Eventually, the time for us to leave arrived.  Peter got out of the car for the last time; Dad pulled away from the curb.  And I turned around to see Peter wave once over his shoulder before walking confidently in the opposite

The young man who symbolized every form of torment was out of my life.  And I started sobbing.  Because my big brother, my protector, my teacher, was gone.

I am complicit in our fights.  I was a provocateur and a fantastic annoyance.  Naturally, I have blocked out most of those memories because it is easier to see myself as the innocent little sister.

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Peter (on the bottom), hugging Sharon (middle person) and my Girl who is giving me a dandelion…

But my big brother was just that.  My big brother.  Not a demon who happened to live in the next room.  Not a malevolent man who lived on making my life hell.

Peter was the person who truly taught me about how I had to take responsibility for my actions.  Peter was the person who taught me to pay attention to my actions and to consider the consequences.

Within a month, Peter met an amazing woman whom he will eventually marry, Sharon, my sister-in-law whom I love dearly.  Sharon was the perfect match for Peter and she entered our lives with brilliance and a luminosity that still gleams nearly thirty years later.  I still have many of the gifts Sharon gave me when I was an awkward, chubby, depressed teenager who hated herself.  Sharon was an unwitting role model for me and, though I might not have shown it, I was fiercely protective of her.  I was also rather jealous of her…but that is yet another story for another day.

Now, thirty years later, Peter is a fantastic uncle to my two children.  At my wedding, Peter gave an impromptu toast which had me in tears because I realized, once more, how much my brother loves me.  His two children were my first real experiences in future motherhood and many of the best ways that I treat my children are based on lessons taught to me by my brother and his son.

Thirteen years ago, my brother was my patron for my walk to Emmaus, a life-altering experience that has truly stayed with me up to today and for the rest of my days.  My brother is a fantastic teacher whose ideas I have adopted and adapted many times over.  My brother is a man I love because he is all the goodness that I want to share with the world, and I am the first one to have truly known his goodness.

Yearly, my brother “adopts” a family and provides them an entire Christmas. Not just a meal.  Not just a few gifts.  The entire thing.

My brother used to (I’m not certain how active he still is) work with Kairos, a prison ministry.  When he receives phone calls from men who have recently been released from jail/prison and need assistance, Peter drives HOURS and will provide them the money to assist them with finding housing, getting necessities, and finding a job.

Peter gives of himself constantly; he is a rock on whom many others have built up their lives and have no idea the foundation on which they are existing.  He doesn’t walk around and flaunt his greatness.  His silent ministry lives through the actions of others.

I think I need to go…

I need to make a phone call…..

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