Last week, a marine came to our house to give Alex his Christmas gift. He and Alex just sat on our couch talking about video games while the rest of us ran around like crazy getting ready to have our picture taken for the church directory. I know it sounds fantastic and in many ways it is, utterly fantastic. But the part that seems as though it should be fantasy is not that Matt came over and sat on our couch with my 8 year old brother, it is that Matt is a marine. The part that should not be true is that the boy my little brother “adopted” into our family so long ago is the same strong mature man who sat on our couch last night.
For a long time we joked that 13 year-old Matt functioned on the same level as 3 year-old Alex. They were (and still are) wonderful friends. In high school Matt used to come over and spend the night; he’d play with Alex until bedtime, go to bed at with him, and then get up after Alex fell asleep and play playstation with my dad. This is the boy who, along with Abi, convinced half the high school that they were biological siblings in spite of the fact that they have different last names, complete stable families and Abi moved into the district in the 8th grade and Matt has lived here his whole life. I do not have as special a relationship with Matt as Alex or Abi, but I practically burst with fear when he was over there. And I practically burst with pride when I see him back here.I love Matt like he is my brother and when he was in Iraq, I couldn’t watch the news, or hear the word Falujah because all it did was make me worry and want to cry.
I’ve called him “Brother Boy” for so long and now that diminutive nickname doesn’t seem to fit anymore, and I don’t know what to say to him. What do you say to a person who now walks tall and sits up straight (I swear he’s grown 3 inches!) and comes to church in khaki green with medals that say “pistol marksman” and “rifle sharpshooter”? What do I have to talk about to Matt? Could he relate to what’s going on in my life: finishing classes, hunting jobs, wondering what my next big step will be. That all seems a bit trite when you consider that he was in Iraq. And what would I ask anyway? Really, I don’t want to talk about what it was like, I just don’t want to know, all I would do is worry more. Really I’m just glad that he’s back in the states and not getting shot at on a regular basis. Really, I’m proud of the man that “my marine”(as much as a marine can belong to anyone) “my brother-boy” grew into and I just wanted you all to know that.