Forever Young

My third brother - who was only a year older - and our oldest brother were not speaking to one another. They had shared the same bedroom for years and always seemed fond of each other. But now they weren't speaking. I don't remember if I noticed it or my younger brother alerted me to it. It wasn't any of my business but I was being the inquisitive little sister - as I usually was where my brothers were concerned for some unfathomable reason - and asked my third brother if it was true.

He didn't really answer me and it was obvious that he didn't want to divulge any information. It was not my place to press him further although I would have loved to. He was a private man, one who kept his thoughts to himself. I respected his privacy and left him alone but was open to discussing it instead with my younger brother. We wondered what had happened to cause this rift between them. Ah, the joys of siblings living under the same roof. Yes, it was gossip, but it was just too intriguing to ignore. And my excuse was that it concerned my brothers, people that I cared about.

He and I never really connected when we were teenagers. We were only a year apart but were more like passers-by living in the same house.

I remember the morning of my birthday - it was a "teen" birthday but I forget which one - when I came down to breakfast. My third brother was dressed for school, as was I, both of us in our school uniforms. Our father wished me a happy birthday, took my hand and kissed the back of it. It seemed very genteel, exactly what a gentleman would do. We never really showed each other affection openly in the way that some families did. And I wonder if it was different when we were very much younger. There were no pecks on the cheeks, nothing of the sort, although we were used to hugs and kisses from our aunts and uncles (our father's sisters and brothers). Our mother was the most affectionate one in the family and I remember her holding my hand in church during the homily. With her, it just seemed so natural.

That morning of my birthday was the only time that I recall, as a teenager, that my father openly showed me affection. Even then, he kept his distance, for which I was grateful. And even then, it was nice to know that he acknowledged my birthday. It's all a bit hazy now but I seem to recall that he asked my brother to buy me a present after school. Why my father did that, I'll never know. I can smile upon recollection but I don't think my brother ever bought me a present that year.

My third brother and I are closer now as adults, probably because he and I no longer reside in our country of birth. He understands what it's like to live away from home, away from everything and everyone that was once familiar.

When I recently saw a childhood photograph of my brothers, one that I had never seen before, it occurred to me that I still saw my brothers as the boys in the photograph. They were in their early to mid teens and it was amazing that their poses, the way they stood, sat, or smiled, or the expressions on their faces, hadn't changed much over the years. They had already been moulded into their respective personalities. They still hadn't fully matured but everything was already there. Not everything, and yet, everything. And I still see them that way. No doubt there were changes over the years but I could recognise them even in an old photograph. We have all grown older and my third brother has flecks of grey in his hair. We are no longer children but adults heading into the autumn years of our lives. Not yet, but it'll come soon enough.

But I see them as boys. And when I saw my third brother in that photograph, I saw him, smiling, mischievous, and open. And I also have this image of him in my head with rolled-up shirtsleeves. I found it to be quite stylish and whenever I wore a long-sleeved shirt, I would almost always roll up the sleeves. I liked the way my brothers rolled up their shirt sleeves. I was never much of a tomboy although I think I wished I was. I am a woman but I seem to like, or appreciate, certain gestures, such as the way two men, especially two male friends, reach out and firmly shake hands. There is something very sincere and appealing about it, also masculine, and I've found myself doing just that with members of the opposite sex. It seemed genuine and I liked that. Of course I wasn't a man and I wasn't looked upon as a man by the other party so it wouldn't be the same as I'd imagined it. And I sometimes wondered if it was something I learned from watching the men in my life whilst growing up.

My third brother and I were only a year apart but there was never that closeness during our teens, he preferring the company of our older brothers whereas I spent more time with our younger brother. He was in his own world, as was I.

He is more considerate now, more loving. Growing older does that, I suppose, or marriage, or missing one's family. Or maybe it's all just part of growing up. And I experienced it some time ago when he coincided his visit back home with mine, arriving and leaving on the exact same date. One might think that it wasn't such a big deal, and easy to do. But he bothered to ask, and plan ahead, and made sure it was all carried out. I appreciated his thoughtfulness. I love my brother. And I miss him. He is no longer that boy that I didn't used to know. I won't venture to say that I know him that well now either. Maybe the time spent apart on opposite sides of the globe is what helps keeps us closer through the years and appreciate each other all the more whenever we do get together. We hardly ever mention love, if at all. But he knows - as all my brothers do - that they have a sister who thinks of them often and who doesn't shy away from telling them how much she misses them. She would never say it in person, of course, but then, who knows, maybe one day... It's not talked about but it's understood.

They were once youthful boys. Now they are older men. But they'll be forever young to me, just like those boys in a faded photograph.



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