My brother and I were born four years apart, a mere speck in time on life’s canvas, but large in sibling relationships. He is the third of five children born to my parents, then in their early 20s. His birth posed no threat to me. I had enjoyed four years of attentive spoiling as the firstborn son, grandson and nephew within a loving, female-dominated extended family.

I never viewed myself as his big brother, but I have learned that he did. He looked up to me. I was the basketball star with all the girls, who stayed out until midnight on weekends. One of my weekly chores was to hold his hand and walk him to his speech therapy for what my grandmother called a “slow tongue,” a description far less ominous than that of his speech therapist. I waited patiently and, on the way home, we practiced his “slow tongue” exercises. I was proud of him. But he never knew it, because I never told him.

For many years, we shared a tiny bedroom but never seemed to occupy the same place and experiences at the same time. When he graduated from high school, I was a college student in Philadelphia. When I graduated, he was attending college in Missouri, later married his high school sweetheart and moved to Texas, where he lived for more than 30 years.

He left home for college at 18 years old and that is how I remembered him. Time moved on, but I failed to record, account for, or comprehend the changes time brings. For years the two of us were very emotionally connected, but frozen in time. We were familiar strangers sharing a common yet disconnected history. Times did not change. We did.

Over the years, superficial “touching base” phone calls masqueraded as real conversation. But our deepest thoughts were not communicated. When he visited New York, it was usually for a family event and our conversation was limited, light and casual.

A diagnosis of prostate cancer for us both opened the door to deeper conversation. We had surgery on the same day, he in Texas and I in New York. Then our phone conversations had a different texture and tone. We began to talk about faith, fears and our own mortality.

Both retired, gray-haired septuagenarians, we sought a deeper meaning of life and reached to recall the smallest of details and feelings with no fear of the road ahead.

My brother has since moved to New York. And his illness has opened a new chapter in both our lives. I still hold his hand and walk him to weekly treatments, but now it is a privilege and not an “older brother” chore. I am very proud of him as a brother, father and grandfather, but now I tell him. After all, I am his big brother.

We are often asked what we find to talk about each week for four to five hours? Our response is always the same — “Everything.” We share a belief that despite the present reality, time is on our side. We are not simply filling time in the present or closing gaps in our past lives. We are writing a history of our own and strengthening an everlasting brotherly bond.

Aldustus E. Jordan

Coram

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