My life was shaped and altered by a boy my own son’s age

I write about siblings quite a bit, those people who see us through the unique and distorted lens of time, through jealousy, growth, undiluted love, resentment, shame, and blind acceptance. My siblings are the closest I have to a mirror of my soul.

My brother Marc had an enormous impact on most every aspect of my life, perhaps on none so great as on my parenting, my view of parenting and more recently my view of young people in general. He was my big brother, a giant in my eyes when I was little. He was cool, calm, popular, smart, and very handsome.

Until just a couple of years ago, Marc would forever be 9 years older than me, a lifetime when I was a child. Cut short at 62 years, I will (hopefully) pass him by in just a few years. That will be strange, an older brother who no longer ages.

Our view of age changes as we ourselves age. As I watch my own children grow and acknowledge their learning curve, their growth, their imperfect decisions, my opinion of my brother has changed and softened. My judgement of my parents has become far more forgiving.

At 18, my brother was off to college, the college of the 70s with lots of partying, lots of activism, lots of confusion, trial, error, and experimentation, perhaps not so different from today but for the shadow of Vietnam. College, the time of growth and change. For Marc, the change I remember was altering not just for him, but for me, his younger sister. His eventual withdrawal from friends and from life became a great source of stress, embarrassment and resentment in our little house on Red Coat Lane. And I always saw his change as willful, intentional, lazy, a decision made by an adult that benefitted no one and only blew apart our family in ways I am still discovering.

Strangely, I never gave thought to my brother’s youth at that time. LIke my son, he was a boy in the body of an adult, a yet to be fully-developed brain, an insecure young man facing a life for which he never felt prepared.

My brother, though gone, continues to guide me and teach me. As I learn to forgive and understand him, I also learn to understand my own children and my own self, perfectly imperfect.

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