When my brother Nate and I were younger we used to fight. A lot. And whenever things got bad enough that my mom had to get involved, she always had us make up the same way: Brother Hugs. She’d literally make us hug even though we wanted to tear each other’s heads off. And since we were so angry with each other they’d never be real hugs, but more like body bumps where we clenched each other so hard we tried to hurt one another, whispering things like “as soon as her back is turned I’m going to kill you!”
For the last few days I’ve been remembering a lot of stuff that involves my brother. Because Nate — the keeper of this virtual tome that is The Daddy Files — has accepted a new job in Maryland where he’s moving to live with his girlfriend.
It’s not unexpected news, they’ve been doing the long distance dating thing for five years now. But even though I knew it was coming, it still took me by surprise.
Don’t get me wrong, a big part of me is happy for him. He loves his girlfriend very much and we all know they’ll get married eventually. She’s a doctor at Johns Hopkins and Nate is crazy about her for good reason. But the only thing he wasn’t crazy about was moving. And frankly, I’m not crazy about it either.
And that’s awful to say, I know. I fully admit it. I’m a bad brother and a bad person. But I can’t help it. I’m selfish and I’m going to miss him. A lot.
You all don’t know Nate, but you have to believe me when I say that making decisions is Nate’s downfall. He hates making decisions, especially rushed decisions. Nate requires multiple Excel spreadsheets, a Magic 8 ball and days of Internet research just to decide where he wants to go out to eat. So when he was suddenly offered a job and told to make a decision within 48 hours, he was truly in panic mode. Deep down he knew what he was going to do, but leaving the only place you’ve ever known is a tough call no matter what.
The two of us talked about it on Monday night, the day before he had to decide. He asked me what I thought about it and honestly, I had lots of thoughts. I have to admit, the first one that jumped into my head sounded something like “NOOOOOO!!! MAKE HER MOVE HERE DAMMIT!” But after I clubbed that voice to death, I told him it was a good thing. I told him he needs to go to Maryland to be with his girlfriend, make sure they can live together on a full-time basis and get ready to start his life with her. I told him congratulations and that I was proud of him. We talked about whether or not he’d be able to bring his TV, if they’d find a new place, how many times a year he’d come back this way and a ton of other stuff.
The one thing we didn’t talk about — the one thing that was never mentioned — was Will. And for good reason.
You see, I can help rationalize all the other stuff. I can downplay the fact that he won’t be able to go to Fenway because he can get the MLB package. If he gets homesick, I can tell him airfare from Baltimore to Boston is cheap and affordable. But the one thing I can’t change is the fact that this move means he’ll miss a lot where Will is concerned. There’s just no way around it. Right now he sees Will at least once a week, but Baltimore means once every few months. It means he’ll miss huge chunks of time in which Will is going to grow like a weed, start saying cool words and all that stuff. I know he feels guilty about that, but there’s nothing I can say or do that will make that particular issue any better. Likewise, when he gets married and has kids I’m not going to get to see them nearly as often as I’d like. I can’t wait to be an uncle and the selfish part of me is just wishing he was closer.
The really shitty part is that Will has two uncles. Nate is moving to Baltimore and MJ’s brother Tommy recently moved to Maryland as well. And ever since Nate and MJ met, they’ve shared a special connection and understanding with each other that I just can’t figure out. But my wife loves Nate so much, and it increased when her own brother moved away. That’s why I’m surprised The Ice Queen (as I lovingly refer to my normally emotionless better half) is even shedding a few tears over this.
I thought I was prepared for this but I’m having kind of a difficult time. I just had things planned in my head a little differently. I really thought we’d both settle down in Massachusetts and live near each other. I thought we’d go over each other’s house for Sunday BBQs and to watch the Patriots games. I envisioned our kids playing together on a regular basis and frequent family get togethers on perfect New England fall days. I know how corny I sound, but I can’t help it. I’m a huge, tacky geek at heart.
But most of all I’m going to miss my brother. I’m going to miss arguing with him because he always made me better. He’s so anal and nitpicky and he pounces on any inconsistency in your argument, so I always make sure I’m on point. I’m going to miss his quiet thoughtfulness, exemplified perfectly by the unbelievable gift he gave me for my 30th birthday last month, turning the first year of Daddy Files into a hardcover book. I’m going to miss Sunday football marathons where Nate, my dad and I sit around with our laptops checking our fantasy football teams and trash talking. And I’m going to miss Uncle Nate watching Will grow up, because the two of them love each other so much.
And yes, I know full well this sounds like a eulogy and he’s certainly not dying. It’s Baltimore, not the west coast. He’ll get home to see us all and we’ll go visit him occasionally too. He’s going to be very successful at his new job and I’m sure things will work out with him and his girlfriend and they’ll live happily ever after. But I can’t help but wish that living was taking place here.
I sure could use a Brother Hug right about now.