Thirty eight years ago today, on a day very much like this one, my baby brother, Mike, came into this world and into my life. As an almost eight-year-old girl with a deep maternal instinct, this was a dream come true. I had my very own baby.
Mike was absolutely adorable with a beautiful and sunny nature that everyone loved. He was an easy baby and I took great delight in mothering him…or perhaps at times, smothering him with my devoted affection. One of my favourite memories is snuggling up in my bed and reading to Mike. And there are still times when I am reading the same books to my own kids that I will feel the presence of that delightful little guy who made my life so utterly sun-shiny.
Even though I had lived almost eight years of my life before Mike come along, I truly cannot recall a time when my beautiful brother has not been a significant part of my life. I remember his first words, his first steps, his first haircut, and his first day of school. And, I remember them all with the nostalgia of a parent.
The other first that I remember, with a bit of an ache in my heart, is the first time that I saw Mike as my friend and as my equal.
It was February of 1993 and our beloved grandfather, Poppa, was in the hospital. Mom was out of town at a quilting convention. Dad was out of town on business. My older brother, Jim, was living in Ottawa. And my younger sister, Margie, was at school in Montreal. I was working at a school in Toronto and Mike was still in high school. My grandmother, Nanny, was house-bound so Mike and I were holding down the fort and taking care of both Nanny and Poppa.
The school I was working at was a few minutes from Sunnybrook Hospital so I used to go in at lunch and after work to visit with my adorable and much-loved grandfather.
On the morning of February 16th, 1993, I dropped Mike at school on my way to work. We agreed that we would meet at the hospital after school and then go see Nanny after our hospital visit with Pop. It was a cold and very snowy day and by lunchtime my car was covered in deep snow. At that point in my career, I had an old beater of a car that needed lots of time to warm up so I left it running while I cleared the snow. When I had finished, I discovered, much to my frustration and chagrin, that I had locked my keys in the car.
I phoned Mike’s school and he arrived in a taxi with my spare set. By the time the car fiasco was dealt with my lunch hour was over and I had to go back to work. I was sorry that I didn’t get my lunch time visit with my Poppa but knew that I would see him in a few short hours. Mike and I decided that rather than going back to school, he would carry on to the hospital and spend the afternoon with Pop.
I had not been in my class very long before I got a distressed call from Mike asking me to get to the hospital…fast.
I rushed to the hospital to discover Mike standing in the hallway outside Pop’s room with a grief-stricken face. ‘Pop died’, was all he could say before he crumpled into my arms.
With the rest of our family out of town, we had only each other to lean on. And while we felt as if the world around us had suddenly gone mad, we were each other’s anchors. We held each other, we wept together, and we began the unbearable sadness of saying goodbye. The events of that afternoon are blurry. However, the thing that stands out the most is that Pop’s death was a defining moment in my relationship with Mike. It was the first time I had ever seen Mike as my friend, my comfort and my brother. Not my baby brother, but my brother.
And so, on this 28th day of February I celebrate not only the birth of my beautiful baby brother but also the deep friendship of a wonderful man.
Happy birthday Mike! I love you! xo