Six years ago, I almost lost my brother. I had just arrived in Barbados for a vacation and my mom phoned. If you’ve ever received a call where you know something is wrong before a word is spoken, you know the feeling I had when answering the phone.
Kyle had been ambulanced from the side of a highway to hospital, and then airlifted to another hospital. He was in intensive care and my mom insisted that I stay in Barbados and finish my trip. I did as she said, but to this day, I don’t know if it was the right choice; it’s one of two long-term regrets – or at least questions – I hold about my life.
But I digress; this post isn’t about me. The thing is, every year since May 2015, this week catches me by surprise with how shaken I can feel by the memories. And since I’ve been trying (not usually succeeding) to hold up my commitment to share what people mean to me, this seems like a good time to give a shout-out to my brother.
First of all, Kyle is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and his head injury didn’t affect that. When a follow-up appointment with a neurosurgeon later in 2015 revealed the doctor had originally declared there was no point in doing the surgery, that seemed a pretty big reason to feel extra grateful.
He’s also insightful. He and I use our brains differently, but he caught me off-guard somewhere along the journey of the last few years when he announced that we are the same in being perfectionists. It wasn’t a compliment and I knew not to take it as one. He went on to comment that he never tries anything if he can’t be near-guaranteed he’ll do it well, and noted that I am constantly pushing myself and stressing myself out with the need to complete things perfectly well. I told you he was smart.
He shares some of the traits I mentioned when writing about our grandfathers in that he’s perseverant (or stubborn). Even after he was finished with hospitals, he wasn’t “all better.” He remains deaf in one ear and blind in one eye. None of that has stopped him from resuming his usual activities, even when it meant having to re-teach himself some hobbies from new angles. He also continues to do a hands-on, demanding job that he loves and gets called to work by companies who, given the state of things, can choose anyone they want…and they choose my brother.
He’s impulsive, which can lead to trouble. But interestingly enough, when other people are losing their cool, he can find and use his calm to smooth the situation. In a list of moments I’m not proud of from May 2015, I caused a plastic surgery resident to cry and was about to start yelling at a nurse. In both cases, Kyle found ways of telling me to get it together.
While my brother has plenty to say about people who frustrate him, he never shames or talks badly about the types of people that others might choose to write-off. He has a “live and let live” attitude…as long as you don’t get in the way of letting him do his thing.
Beyond his approach to people, there are animals. He absolutely loves them. There are so many Kyle-animal stories to choose from, but seeing him reunited with his dog on the grounds of a hospital is a memory I hope never to lose for as long as I live.
His sense of humour is amazing. Sometimes, he makes his jokes public and other times he shares his humour like a secret gift. At certain kinds of events or gatherings, he knows how to make me laugh or get my attention with just a couple of words or a facial expression. Even though we don’t see each other all that much, he knows how to make me smile.
I know most people are celebrating moms this weekend, and I’ll do that too. But this week – again and still – I’m thinking how lucky I am to have my brother.
With that, I’ll close with Kyle’s own words, written for a recent-ish Thanksgiving. I hope these words tell you something about who he is, and maybe – as they do for me – they also tell you something about what’s needed.
“For the 4th consecutive Thanksgiving I’m thankful for being not dead. I’m thankful for everyone who’s been a part of my life for better or for worse. I’ll celebrate my victories and my failures because it’s all made me who I am. To all my friends and family who stood by through the worst, we made it. Now let’s just go a little further.”