I, Will

And now, a word about Little Brother.

I think it’s fair to say he gets short shrift around here–here being these weekly blog entries, not our life in general. This inequity stands to reason: he came along second, after all, and he’s thus far coasted through life without any of the challenges his older brother, The Kid, has had to face (though that ear-tube surgery back in ’16 was kind of a bitch). Lately I’ve been watching him, and listening–he makes it hard to NOT do either, larger-than-life as he can be. And I’ve made some notes for your reading pleasure and, hopefully one day, his.

If birth stories are predictive of future personality, then TK and LB’s stand true: TK arrived early and quietly, so many things about him unexpected yet subtle. LB, on the other hand, kicked me until my water broke all over the bedroom floor, forcing me out of the house WAY past my bedtime and officially entering the world at 1 am after I vomited all over a nurse due to my (his) unbearable contractions. What I’m saying is that he makes his presence known. And how.

He is both a perfect mixture and, always, his own person. Mixture: he can be The Husband’s doppelgänger, all furrowed brow and concentration one minute, laid-back glee the next; he can also be his mother’s mirror, reflecting back to me a short fuse and bent toward easy frustration. The will is strong with this one: relaxed one second and stubborn the next, his temper often leads TH to turn to me and grin: “I know where he got that from,” even as I was just about to point out that they look like twins.

His own person: ask him if’ he’s anything–hungry, hot, a silly bear–and his reply is standard. “NO! I WILL PHILLIPS!” He knows who he is, even as he’s figuring out what that means.

I can relate.

As an oldest child, I often can’t relate, though. I was the first to do most everything: have a particular teacher or take a certain class. I was known on my own, a quality the younger doesn’t always have. LB is often known in the context of being TK’s brother, and I wonder how that can affect a person. (Maybe I’ll ask The Sis.) I watched him recently as I went with him to TK’s school to talk about his special Apple brain. LB sat on my lap, happy to be in central viewing territory of the class’s eyes. He inserted comments about his own goofy brain a couple of times lest any of us forget he was there. He tickled my face and bounced on my knees. A wallflower he is not.

If TK is a quiet little Mozart, focusing intently on his tasks, then LB–though not without Mozart moments–is more often Yosemite Sam, blasting around our house with a ferocious energy that seems to wane only when he’s sick or there’s an option to be carried and held. He always wants to be held. This is exhausting and endearing, indicative as always of the wide-ranging spectrum he inhabits. This week, he’s been sick–coughs in the night and raspy voice in the day, more carrying than even usual, need amplified to reach my breaking points. And yet. I’ve been afforded more moments with him, this second-born who, when faced with the possibility of growing up in another's shadow, both defiantly emerges from it to cast his own while never failing to come back to that bond: "That's James. He's my brother."

He is complicated yet easy. We lie on the couch together in the calm before he climbs into every nook my body creates, demanding more of me than I know how to give. This morning, I dropped him off for a short day at school and he reached for me, crying. This afternoon I'll pick him up and he'll run to me, thrilled.

And I think about what this means, to know someone or something in the context of something else, to be inseparable from others. Because it's true of all of us, and all we know: everything within something else. For me, all of it within the context of grace, which came first and bats last and never leaves. Grace making everything--challenges and sickness and tempers and grins--a deeper invitation into its all-encompassing context. Every other story a part of the bigger one.

Yesterday in the car LB announced, "We make the world bigger!" I doubt he even knew what he was saying in his cold-induced haze, but I did. And they do.

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