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brotherly love

March 8, 2012

We had a dog who had puppies once. They were a breed that traditionally has their tails docked. When we took the pups to the vet to have the procedure done, they separated them from their mama for the first time. She heard their yelps of pain from the back of the office and had a severe freak out, peeing on the floor and running helplessly in place on her leash, losing her footing on the slick floor. The usually mild-mannered Maggie was ready to latch onto the throat of whoever was hurting her babes. I related.

When my brother was five, he got sick. He suddenly was unable to move his head and neck and would scream in pain if touched. He had a very high fever and a sore throat. We took him to the ER and they ran tests, one of which was a spinal tap to screen for meningitis. I was on the other side of a curtain with my mom, and I heard him cry and scream. To this day, I cannot think of that moment without tearing up. I wanted to stop whatever was happening to him. I wanted to take his place. I wanted him safe.

He had to go to the hospital for a few weeks. My dad was in the Persian Gulf. James slept with his picture. At one point, the doctors were preparing to call my dad home from Desert Storm because they weren’t sure if James would survive. The same infection, Streptococcus pyogenes, had just killed Jim Henson. It was critical. My sister and I stayed at a series of friends’ houses while my mom stayed at the hospital. It was a dark, scary time.

James was a sweet boy, smart and sensitive. He had huge blue eyes with mile-long, thick eyelashes that I still envy. He had an infectious laugh that made you want to be funny so he’d share it with you. And he had an eccentric speech impediment that caused him drop the first sound of every word. He was called Jimmy when he was little. And I was not Kristin, I was “Istin.”

Slowly he got better. It may have been all the medicinal Nintendo he played in the hospital with the male nurses. The relief of him coming home was huge after not knowing if he would.

He’s a college grad with a job and a mortgage and a wife, living far away. I miss James, and I miss Jimmy. I miss being Jimmy and Istin, trying to find Waldo and eating macaroni and cheese. I also miss him as he is now, with a beard and a sense of humor and a love of God. He’s a pretty remarkable man, and I’d think so even if I weren’t his sister.

I remember getting a phone call at my aunt’s house when he was born. My mom said I had a brother. I almost didn’t though – she didn’t tell me at the time about the emergency c-section. So twice we nearly lost him. Twice he came close to death and survived. I thank God for that every day, but especially on March 8, his birthday.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 12:30 am


  2. Katie permalink
    March 9, 2012 3:18 pm

    I am so grateful to have James in my life, and grateful that his family has been so open to sharing him with me. Becoming a Taylor was one of the best decisions I ever made.

  3. March 9, 2012 6:39 pm

    So so true. All of it. Everything.

  4. March 9, 2012 6:42 pm

    Especially the bit about his contagious laugh and wanting to say something funny just to hear it. 🙂

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