How do you tell someone you love goodbye? There's no easy way to do it, and there's no way around it in this life.
I had to say goodbye to my brother tonight. He's deploying to Germany, will most likely be shipped to a war zone, and we don't know when we'll see him next.
My brother, Robert, and I have always been very close, but as we've both "matured" (I use the term loosely) into adulthood over the past few years, we've become closer than ever. We have a similar sense of humor (though mine tends to run a bit more G-rated), we find the same random things funny, we find similar things irritating in life, etc.
Robert always knows how to make me burst out laughing right in the middle of dinner, so much so that I usually need to excuse myself from the table. He's one of the few people in this world who has the power over me to give me the "crazy-eye". (definition: I laugh so hard that one of my eyes shuts half-way, while the other gets very big and wide.) He is just constantly making me laugh.
Robert also has a very sensitive side that often surprises me. I remember that there was a time in my life where I was going through more hardship than I'd ever known. My world had been shattered in my eyes, and I had become so down. One night, as I laid in the top bunk of the bunk-bed that we shared for a year, I was sobbing uncontrollably, dwelling upon my own misery. Without even questioning my pity, he climbed up to the top, rubbed my back and started singing to me. He reassured me that everything would be fine, that "this too would pass", and that he would always be supportive of me.
Less than a year later, I encountered a personal tragedy. My world was once again turned upside down, and I was certain that no one understood what I was going through. I was again shattered, and with this tragedy came a deep fear for being alone, as in physically left alone in a room, for even a second. When night fell and the world was asleep, I was wide awake, frightened. It was then that Robert, without missing a beat, came into my bedroom with a book, pillow and blanket, and made camp on the lumpy love seat in my bedroom. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to pull an all-nighter in here tonight," he declared, as if it were normal. And he did. He stayed up all night long, reading his book and occasionally checking to make sure I was comfortable. If I stirred in the middle of the night, he was on his feet within seconds to make sure I was fine. He didn't go to bed himself until 8:30 the next morning.
These two recent memories were thick on my mind as we drove Robert to Dulles Airport today. Anticipating the separation from someone whom you often spend time wondering if he's really your twin...is hard. And that car ride, as I tried to take in every second and convince myself that his presence was not imagined, was hard. I looked over at Robert holding his fiance's hand at one point, and couldn't help but smile. The three of us were crammed into the backseat, and our shoulders-hips-knees were all touching. The reality of the situation combined with my dad's unchanging driving immediately took me back.
Back many, many years ago.
Back to the first time that my parents brought Robert home from the hospital. I was so excited, that I sat in the backseat explaining to my baby brother that we had a surprise coconut cake for him at home that I wasn't supposed to tell mom about.
Back to his baptism, and all of our relatives calling him "Baby Bobby", and me, the older, wiser sister explaining that his name was "Robert".
Back to taking car trips, with me buckled next to Robert in his baby car seat, and me making sure that the shadow of my hand over his face shaded his eyes from all times from the bright sun.
Back to me sitting on his bed one night, explaining to the then 4-year old brother that he better enjoy his time with me now, because I was going to be going to college in 10 years.
Back to playing his favorite game "Rosie" in the backyard, and holding hands and spinning so hard and for so long while looking up at the dusk sky- that we eventually fell backwards and tackled each other.
Back to the first Christmas gift he'd ever given to me: a dish sponge that he had drawn eyes and a toothy-grin on and called "Spongebob."
Back to him sending me a CD that he personally burned while I was away at college, appropriately called "Now that's what Robert calls music."
Back to seeing his expression when I showed him that I had a diamond ring on my finger.
Back to riding in the limo on the way to the reception after my wedding Mass, and looking in the back and seeing Robert holding Julia's hand.
Back to me seeing his expression as he showed me that he had put a diamond ring on Julia's finger.
Back to this morning, as I bought a new bible for him and had Father bless it after mass, and handed it to him before we left; all while memories were flooding my mind, and a grapefruit sized lump appeared in my throat.
I never imagined that saying goodbye would be this difficult. The house is empty without him. It's eerily quiet. I wonder if having him here for 4 weeks was a dream or not. Robert, you will probably read this from home when you return, correct all the grammar out loud and then laugh at how sappy I was. But just in case you find a wave of internet before then, know that you are so incredibly missed. And this, too, will pass.