I see him out of the corner of my eye, barreling down on my younger brother Jonathan. I’m too far away to get there in time, but then, suddenly, my older brother Daniel appears and steps in. Jonathan had said something to anger an older, bigger kid, and the kid came running towards my little brother, ready to hit him. Before he could get there though, Daniel stepped in front of him and punched him right in the face.
That’s how it was with my brothers and I growing up. We did everything together, and we always had each other’s backs. It was the three of us, and we never let anyone mess with us.
We were super close until we got to middle school — and then slowly, we drifted apart. As we got older, we played less and hanging out together, and more time doing our own things. We went off to college in different states and started living and working on opposite sides of the country. In my early 30s, as I started learning more about myself and becoming more emotionally intelligent, I realized I needed to work on my relationship with my brothers. I slowly got to a good place with Jonathan. But my older brother Daniel and I, well, that hasn’t been as easy.
Daniel and I are very close in age — we’re only 13 months apart. But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Our personalities, demeanor, interests — pretty much most things you can think of, are different. Yet, despite all of this, I want to get close to him. To find that magic we had as boys.
It’s difficult — older brothers don’t like to listen to their younger brothers. And just because I was interested in getting closer, didn’t mean that he was. In my therapy sessions, my brother would often come up. It felt like I was the only one putting in work, and he didn’t seem to be reciprocating.
I pointed to the fact that every time I called him, I ended with, “I love you.” And each time, he responded with, “Okay, bye.”
Two years of that was weighing on me and started making me questions whether it was worth investing in the relationship. But my therapist encouraged me to stick with it. And then one day, out of nowhere, he said it back.
Three simple words that carry such an enormous weight. My brother telling me, “I love you,” is a huge step for him, a huge step for both of us. Saying those three words took humility, vulnerability, and courage. I’m proud of my brother for stepping up and I’m excited for what lies ahead for us and our relationship.