About four and a half years ago, I lost my oldest brother. Marc loomed large in my life. He was brilliant, kind, charming and childlike. He was also mentally ill, challenging and reclusive. For all long as I can remember, he was the older brother I would turn to and look toward and hold closest. He and I shared temperament.
But it was from my second-oldest brother that I learned how to live comfortably in the skin I was given. Paul and I were never really close. Unlike Marc, Paul was always moving, always working, always living his life and that didn’t really include a much younger sister.
When Marc died, and as we were hiking to the the falls on Mount Chocorua
to scatter my brother’s ashes, I lamented my slow pace, tried to speed up and found my breathing couldn’t keep up with my legs, and I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the party. My brother, Paul, slowed down and walked with me for a bit, and I told him I was having trouble keeping up. He said, “Nancy, you just need to find your own pace.” No judgement. No disbelief. No irritation. Just solid advice, so like my brother Paul. And that little bit of advice has stuck with me, changed how I travel through life and given me the gift of tolerance of my own shortcomings.
I’ve learned that I can’t bike or hike the fastest, but I can bike or hike for miles. I’ve learned that I don’t learn as quickly as I might like, but given time, I can pick up almost anything. I’ve learned that I can paint, as long as my expectations are only what I expect of myself. My brother Paul gave me the gift of understanding, the knowledge that while we may not always be able to choose our path, we can choose our pace. And that little bit of advice has opened up my world, provided me insight into the milestones my young adult children are reaching on their own time, a better understanding of the individual each of us is, and an appreciation for my second-oldest brother Paul.