When David and I got married, I inherited something I had never had before … three older brothers. Growing up as the firstborn in a family of what would become 13 children, I had plenty of experience “setting the example,” “going first,” “trying it before others” and other oldest-child phenomena, but no experience of gleaning from the knowledge of older siblings or enjoying the protection of them. When I got married, I didn’t realize it at the time, but those unique blessings of having older brothers would follow me throughout the years.
My “Other Brothers” as I call them, are a varied bunch — a doctor, a businessman, a golf professional. They are about as different in personality from me as toucans are from field sparrows. They are consummate colorful extroverts. I’m a cozy-ish friendly introvert. They are bold. I am subtle. They know everything about sports. I’m more academic. And they do some things that I would, um, never do.
But I love them.
Over the years, my Other Brothers’ care and protection has been a tremendous blessing in my life.
In 2005, Big Brother No. 2 (the doctor — surgeon actually) personally (with my permission) found out the results of a biopsy I had, and came to my home to deliver the difficult news himself — the news that I had cancer. He tried to soften the blow by bringing a bag of delicious bagels, (which I wanted to throw at him viciously once I heard what he had to say). Like any brother, however, he took my panicked reaction on the chin and didn’t take it personally.
In retrospect I can’t believe he broke the news to my husband and me himself. It couldn’t have been easy telling us that I had cancer. This Other Brother could have sloughed off the chore on someone else (namely my own doctor), but he came anyway, thinking of us, not himself. During the weeks following my diagnosis, he set me up with the best oncologist around, and helped me navigate the frightening tests, meetings and descriptions of my chemotherapy options. He expedited my treatment, as best as he could. He encouraged me and called or showed up at my chemo appointments to check up. I felt safe in that fraternal care.
Brother No. 1 (the businessman) is a fast talker. He’s what business writers call a “connector.” He networks. He juggles. He’s up at 4:30 a.m. doing entrepreneurial activities and is always busy with something — reading, networking, playing handball at lunch. He’s got crazy ideas, one of which was to fly our entire family out to California to visit his son (our nephew) and David’s and my son, who were working there. This Other Brother bought our tickets — researched to find the nicest hotel, then followed through. That trip was wonderful bonding and fun for our family. “Can I get you anything?” and “Do you need anything?” was the standard question to me while we were there. What a blessing to experience this thoughtfulness.
Brother No. 3 (the golf pro) is only a year apart from my husband. The two shared rooms together growing up. “Frick and Frack,” you might say. They have the same high school friends. They finish each other’s sentences. Once, we were playing Pictionary and my husband had only drawn one line and a curve, when my Other Brother jumped up, guessing the answer correctly, “Den! It’s a lion’s den!” he yelled. They think this way, you see, as if their minds were connected, because I think in some way they are. The two will often talk on the car phone all the way into work, which takes 30 minutes. When I want to talk politics, I’ll bring it up with this Other Brother, whom I’ve grown close to too. He mostly shares my political opinions, but is fiercer in expressing it. When we don’t agree, we’ll argue — just like I will with my biological brothers.
The attributes of Other Brothers are much like the attributes of biological brothers:
• They tease.
• They offer strong opinions.
• They open doors for you and offer you drinks when you are in social situations with them.
• You can commiserate together.
• You learn from each other.
• They will stick up for you or they’ll challenge you. There are benefits to each.
• You will journey through life together, through ups and downs, through births and deaths.
A biological brother becomes one by chance. An Other Brother becomes one by choice — you pick your spouse and he’s simply part of the package. I think God orchestrates this all a little bit. He knows how we need to love and grow and be challenged. And He knows when we need to be looked out for and protected. And for these reasons and many more, that’s why he gives us Other Brothers.
“Let brotherly love continue.” (Heb 13:1)
“ … a brother is born for adversity. (Prov 17:17)
“ … he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 Jn 4:20 )
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