Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh, brother...

You don't have to get a Psychology degree to figure out that daughters are scarred for life when they lose their fathers. It has become common knowledge that women will seek out men who remind them of their fathers and they always have a need to fill the void their father left. John Mayer even wrote a song about it recently that explains the whole situation in case anybody was not aware.

But I'm learning recently that this phenomenon is not just about girls and their daddies. It can also be applied to brothers.

You see, over 12 years ago, I lost my brother. He was weeks shy of 18, and I had just turned 12. We had a typical sibling relationship - teasing, bullying, fights, etc. I can remember countless times of him sitting on me, telling on me, and yelling at me.

But I also remember him teaching me poker, baseball, algebra, good music, funny jokes, etc. I remember us sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve and sharing gifts with each other in the morning. I remember going to his football games and him going to my softball games. We laughed at the same movies. And he always watched out for me.

When he died, he was a Senior in high school. He was really popular and had tons of friends. One of them even had lived with us for a period of time. And a month after my brother died, this friend of his took me trick-or-treating. That winter, another friend took me skiing and taught me how. Other friends of his would just randomly stop by to see how we were doing and hang out with me. I'd still go to all the football games, and eventually became the team manager. The guys on the team had such great respect for my brother that they had adopted me as their sister.

So now, instead of losing a brother, I had actually gained tons of them. Over the next few years, I saw this pattern emerge. Eventually, my brother's friends moved away and I had other guys fill the void. I became friends with my male neighbors and cousins, who relentlessly teased me but nonetheless supported me and watched out for me.

Growing up through high school and college, it seemed the pattern continued. I constantly had guy friends that I could laugh and fight with. I found myself giving them sisterly advice and taking brotherly advice. I expect them to always be there for me, because I cannot stand to have the void. Even today, there are certain guys I instantly connect with and in my head we are siblings.

I don't think the brother void is as scarring as the father void, but it is nonetheless a reality I discovered. It effects the way I relate to males, and always will. To me, it explains why I have collected a series of guy friends over the years that I would absolutely do anything for. It explains why I can't just have female friends, and why my male friends fill specific roles in my life.

And it explains why I grieved the way I did, because mostly, I just miss having a brother for life. Real brothers don't lose contact after they leave for college. Real brothers don't forget me when they get girlfriends or life gets busy. They can't. They are obligated by blood to love you forever. My replacement brothers are not. I constantly have to struggle to keep them, mourn their loss when I can't and then work so hard to find another one. It's psychologically exhausting.

This is my reality and discovering it has opened my eyes to see so much. It has enabled me to realize when I am being too clingy and when I am expecting too much. It has allowed me to see the void for what it is and not let it control my life. So here's to brothers and all they offer.

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