For a few years after I moved out of my parents’ house, I had reoccurring dreams about my youngest brother, Casey. In the dreams, he was always a baby. We were being chased by unknown dream assassins, and I was carrying him, trying to protect him. I would wake from these dreams and call my mother to inquire about Casey. Was he safe? At home? In good health? Of course the answers were always yes. I knew that before calling, yet I couldn’t help but pick up the phone.
It took a lot of contemplation over many years to put together the thought process behind the dreams. I had moved out on my own and was feeling distance from my family. I wanted to know that bond would be safe and unharmed despite my physical proximity.
I lived in Colorado, in the same forty mile radius for the first thirty or so years of my life. I had a certain romance with the idea of living in the same place my entire life- of knowing everything I needed dwelt within the family, friends, and place that knew me best.
Life has a way of changing plans without your permission, and about a decade ago, I found myself crying as I packed boxes to move to Arizona. The night before I left, I sobbed on Casey’s shoulder as I said goodbye. I remember the words he said to me.
“You’ll be ok. You have Ben. One person is all you really need. You’ll be alright.”
I have no idea if he was just saying what I needed to hear, or if he really believed those words, but they turned out to be true. For the first few months in Arizona, it was just Ben and I. It was up to us to figure out the new city we lived in, build our home, meet people and make friends. We did it together, and in many ways, it solidified our union as a couple.
Casey came to visit me this weekend, along with my mom, my brother Rob, and my niece, Sami. Sami races quads and had an event about an hour from my house.
On the way home from the race, Mom, Casey and I had a talk. Of course it was about Chris, my older brother who died last year. The anniversary of his death had just passed, and I wanted to know how they were doing. I had talked to them both about the anniversary by phone and text a couple of weeks prior, but there is something about talking in person that forces greater honesty. We couldn’t hide behind a few words. We didn’t have the excuse of needing to get off the call.
I used to joke that Chris and Casey were like an old married couple. They had lived together for much of their adult lives. They snipped at each other, did their grocery shopping together, watched the same television shows.
This weekend, every once in awhile, Casey would make a gesture or have a facial expression that looked exactly like Chris. I’ve noticed this before, but these moments took on new significance. At first, I was comforted by it, because it was like a part of Chris lived on in Casey. But almost in the next moment, my heart broke a little bit. I understood the time and shared experience it takes to develop the same mannerisms as someone. Casey had to be hurting so much. As he had said, you only need one real friend. Chris had been that person.
I have made a good life for myself in Arizona, but there are moments when I feel a desperate need to be in Colorado. As much as it pained me to see Casey hurting, there was a lot of healing within our conversation. Other people miss Chris at random moments, on his birthday or the anniversary of his death. There are only a few of us who know what it is to walk with that pain day in and day out. As we talked, I wondered how much healing we would be able to do if we only lived in closer proximity.
A girlfriend of mine got divorced a few years back. Her therapist at the time told her that she had a year to be a hot mess, and then she had to pull it together. I don’t know what sort of algorithm was used to arrive at the year,but this past weekend, I contemplated this piece of advice as well. On the first anniversary of Chris’s death, I felt pretty ok. But seeing Casey, my heart once again knew pain. Not for Chris, but for my baby brother. I spent the year focused on my grief, unable to do much else. Now, I could feel for someone else, someone who had it far worse than myself.
Casey is much younger than me. I moved out of the house when he was still a kid, so really, I have known him best as an adult. Being younger, I worry about him. I don’t want these experiences to pain him so much that he grows cold. As much as pain has brought us closer together, I worry that it will push him away from finding that new “one” person. Not someone to replace Chris, because that can’t be done. But someone to build a new life with, something just between them, the way I did with Ben.
Casey, if you read this, keep your heart open. Don’t let fear or pain blind you from all the love there is to be had. You are a good person with a kind heart. Your joy needs to be shared.
Until that person comes along, I will say you were wrong. I don’t need only one person. One person is a good start, but I have room for more. I might not be your person, but I will do my best to be a person you can rely on, share your heart with, and bring your joy to.
Keep your head up little brother, and know that I always love you.