Gabriel Goldstein sends off his older brother to military service with a moving portrait of their brotherly bond.
As I sit here, I’m struggling to grasp that this is really happening. For all of my life, I’ve brushed off the thought of you leaving because I never wanted to confront the reality of you actually having to. Whenever an older sibling has left the house, I knew it would be okay because I would have you there with me. But now I’m lost. I feel like I’m drowning. And I don’t know how to resurface.
I really don’t know what to say right now. I’ve never had to do something this hard. You’ve always been the one who’s put me in my place when need be. You’ve always been the one who’s made me smile when I’m frustrated. You’ve always been the one who’s made me feel confident, safe, and never alone.
Throughout all of the trials of our childhood, you were right there next to me. We faced everything together. We formed the same friendships. We share the same memories. We tell the same stories. For us, there will never be a goodbye. I know you will be in my life until the day I die.
Though you may not have noticed, you have served as my role model for the past seventeen years.
One of the most important things that you’ve imparted on me is that it’s okay to be comfortable with emotional expression. After years of observation, I began to realize that you approached emotions far differently than we were taught to. You were never one to suppress your emotions, despite the fact that we were raised to do so. When you were sad, you’d make it known. When you were happy, you’d make it known. When you were mad, you’d make it very well known. I remember when I called you a name one too many times and you punched me in the eye. Suffice it to say that your comfort with emotional expression, be it physical or verbal, left a very strong, and sometimes visible, impression on me.
Seven Goldstein children. That’s far more than the world is fit to handle. Though each and every one of us shares an unbreakable bond, it’s no secret that you, me, and Avi have always been the trio. We’ve spent the majority of our lives together. The stories we share are endless. From the late night talks, to the sneaking out, to the trifectas, to the inexplicably ridiculous things we’ve done, we’ve always had a relationship of optimal closeness. I would go to both of you for anything, because I know that you’ll be there for me, no matter what. But with all due respect to Avi, you and I have always shared a bond of superior closeness. We’re a mere fifteen months apart. You’ve been in the grade above me for my entire life. We took baths together. We shared a room together (well, until my late night power-ranger playing pushed you to the brink of insanity and you tragically moved out). We rode bikes together. We consoled each other when things were bad in the house. We hit each other. We hated each other. We loved each other. I somewhat feel as if you have lived my life, and I have lived yours. We’ve gone through our ups and our downs, but I never once doubted that you were there for me.
Something that I’ve always admired about you is your ability to walk into a room of one hundred people, and walk out with ninety eight new friends. I’ve always strived to emulate your outgoing nature. I have never once seen you doubt yourself, nor have I seen you too afraid to generate a conversation with a complete stranger. You have this charm about you that captures the heart of every person you meet. It’s that same charm that ensures me that, no matter how well you do in school, one day you will end up far more successful than anyone else I know. You are indubitably the most likable person I have ever known.
Another admirable character trait of yours is your ability to be free-spirited and jovial. Very rarely have I seen little things break your spirit, or throw your day off. You have this attitude where the world is in your hands, and you are the ever-clever king. Having you around, both in the home and at school, has added a much needed element of excitement to my life. Whether it be singing and dancing in the car ride home from school, saying ridiculous things in ridiculous voices, going on spontaneous adventures, or just hilarious though immature flashes of insanity, we’ve always managed to have a great time together. While I was doing school work and obsessing over attaining perfection, you were going to sleep before sunset. Now, it’s quite clear to me that we aren’t entirely similar, and that will likely never be who I am, but I do wish I could take it easy and just not care about some things like you do.
When people ask me who my best friends are, I always include you. For some reason, that surprises them. They ponder how my best friend could also be my brother. They often tell me how cute it is that I said that. But I’ve never understood that. How is that at all cute? It’s simply true.
We don’t have the typical little brother-big brother relationship. We are separated only by age. We feel mutually comfortable asking each other for help. We’ve shared great times, sad times, bad times, and euphoric times. We’ve always been there for each other. We’ve always been mere feet away. So, what is cute about that? Nothing. If I were to describe our friendship in one word, I would use “improbable.” It’s not often that you find brothers who get along so well – who share the same friends so smoothly. You hated the fact that I was friends with “your” friends in Junior High. But, as time went on, “your” friends became our friends. You always looked out for me during the very delicate first years of high school. You made sure to reach out to me, include me, and make sure I felt comfortable.
We woke up for school one morning last year. You walked into my room and coaxed me into going back to sleep. After you told me that we’d sleep for just a few more hours, you proceeded to crawl into bed next to me. Some may find our snuggle-filled morning strange. But I think that story perfectly characterizes our relationship. We’re weird. We’re controversial. We’re awesome. And we’re really, really close. I regret not having you over for more sleepovers this past year.
Today has been so strange.
I keep waiting for you to open the door and come upstairs.
I’ve checked your room many times since you left. I walk in, look around, realize the depressing nothingness, choke down tears, and walk out.
Driving in your car is even a struggle.
This year is going to be inexplicably strange. If we’re being honest, I’m not scared; I’m terrified. I don’t know what to expect without you here. I don’t know who I will turn to when I need help. I don’t know who to annoy when I’m bored. I don’t know who to look to for guidance. I don’t know if I’m ready to accept that this is how it will be from now on.
I’ve always been good with words, but I don’t think I will ever be able to convey how much I love you. How proud of you I truly am. How much I will miss you. You have been my role model for my entire life. And though you are moving far away, you will continue to serve as my hero. You haven’t left for nothing – you’ve left to protect the homeland of your people. You’ve left to join forces with your siblings in an effort to ensure that our homeland remains our eternal homeland. You’ve left to do something I can only dream of doing myself.
So here is to the car rides home, the late nights spent talking, the projectile vomit, the conquering of obstacles, the baseball days, the basketball brawls, the failed cooking lessons, the bathroom hangouts, and all of the other unforgettable memories we’ve made together in these past seventeen years.
I’ll find the strength to resurface. I’ll adjust to a life without you, despite my not wanting to. But I will never forget the amazing times we’ve spent together. I will never stop loving you to the end of the world and back.
Thank you for helping to make me the person I am. You will always be in my heart, my mind, and my prayers. Stay safe and come home soon.
I love you.
—Photo courtesy of author
A longer version of this letter originally appeared on thoughtsofajewishteenager.blogspot.com