For those of you who don’t know, Monkey is the nickname for the elder of my younger brothers that my sister and I came up with for our book blog.  It’s on hiatus while she gets better and I get less busy, but we have yet to forget about it!  This blog is part of a series that I started a couple weeks ago.  I found there were some things I wanted my mom to know from me and that people should know that I felt that way.  I realized that this blog lacked a good sense of how I feel about my family, and that was a shame, because my family makes up the best of me.  I love them ever so much, and decided that people should know that first and foremost about me.  So, this is the You Should Read This First series, because everyone should know about my family first.

And now, on to Monkey.

1) You’re the reason I love baseball.  Remember when I hated baseball passionately?  That all changed because of you.  One of the reasons I hated baseball was the way you reacted to losing when you were younger.  I hated coming home and dealing with an angry, sulky brother who I already didn’t particularly get along with (because I was pretty angry and sulky myself).  You realized you needed to change, and along the way you taught me to change, too.  You found ways to include your incredibly sports challenged sister in your baseball, and I’m ever so grateful.   Baseball, after we both grew up, became a truly family affair and I am so grateful that that’s something we have every time we’re all home.  And sometimes while at school.  One of my favorite college memories is the night we both stayed up ridiculously late to watch the 19 inning game online and texted each other as cool things happened.  I couldn’t have had that moment with you without you teaching me to love baseball.

2) The reason I’m still writing: you.  Whether it was because of your belief or sheer defiance of your opinions, you’ve been a driving force behind my writing.  There were times when we argued about content and appropriateness and whether it was at all your business, but I’m glad you stayed involved.  Those times that inspired me to write because I was gonna SHOW YOU are not my proudest writing moments, thought they certainly are some of my most memorable.  However, there’s a memory that sticks out far beyond those petty, if raucous, arguments.  It was in my later high school years and I was working on extending a project that I had done for my Lit class Sophomore year.  I was lamenting how much time it would take and how frustratingly slow I was at typing.  I worried that I would never have time to write what I wanted and what I had to for school.  You, with your unwavering faith in my ability and with a desire to see me happy, offered to be my typist.  I warned you that it would be a long endeavor and you said you didn’t care.  When I doubt, when I falter in my writing because it’s just too much to try to be creative, that’s the memory that drives me.  Sometimes it’s all I’ve got, but it’s just what I need.

3) You taught me the importance of a name.  When I decided to go by Joie and not a derivative of my given name, you stopped addressing me by name.  For nearly nine months.  It was your way of reconciling my wishes and your inability to see me as “Joie.”  I appreciate your efforts, but it hurt.  However, it taught me perhaps one of the most important lessons I could have learned: the importance of hearing one’s own name.  I realized, when you stopped saying anything but “Hi” when we talked that I had the same tendency when I got angry at someone.  I would respond in short, generic sentences and I would stubbornly REFUSE to call them by their name.  When you did the same to me, I realized that what I was doing was inappropriate and hurtful.  Now, when one is angry, it’s pretty normal to lash out.  But I realized that my particular brand of lashing out wasn’t just hurtful, it was damaging.   You taught me that, and I like to think I’ve become a better person for it not just when I’m angry, but in general. (Also, that first time you called me “Joie,” you couldn’t see or hear me because it was over IM, but I straight up cried.  It was one of the best feelings in the world, having you call me by name.)

4) You are inspiring.  You’ve always excelled at life.  I envy the clarity and passion with which you attack everything.  You’re awesome.

5) I forgave you for the family therapy session a long time ago.  This is day that I think is burned in our entire family’s mind: that awful family therapy session.  I don’t think I’ve ever come out of another experience feeling so hurt and alone.  I know I treated you badly for months after that, and held onto the resentment of how beat up I felt–especially by you–for long after that.  I should have said something long ago: I don’t feel that way anymore.  I know that you were just doing what the doctor told you to, and I know that the person at fault in that situation was a less than competent psychologist.  I’m sorry for holding you accountable for the actions of a whack-job therapist.

6) Getting to know you while you were half a world away was one of the best experiences of my life.  I don’t think it’s any secret to those who know us that you and I didn’t get along for most of our lives.  We had the occasional joint b-day party and I love those memories BECAUSE those were some of the few times we got along.  So when you went on your mission to Thailand and we had to physically send letters to each other, I got to know you.  And I got to realize how much you loved me.  We built a relationship in those two years that I had no idea we were capable of.  And I’m really glad we are, and that we’ve maintained that level of love in the years you’ve been home.

7) I absolutely adore talking with you now.  This has everything to do with the previous thing.  I got to know you in writing, so learning to talk to you was a whole other adventure.  But now, when we do get to talk in our busy schedules, I’m pretty sure those times are precious.  You changed from the family member I understood the least to the one I trust the most.  I can talk to you about the things I’m scared or ashamed of and somehow you always know how to react.  I don’t know what I’d do without you there for that.

8) I’m terrifically proud of you.  I think back to the boy I grew up with and see the man I know now and am in awe.  You’ve always worked to be the best person you can be with an impressive ability to self-evaluate and that’s done nothing but make you better with each day.  And yet, through all the changes you’ve made with yourself, you’ve managed to stay true to the little boy I grew up with.  I love that.

9) I SO appreciate your black and white mentality.  As you well know, my world is all gray.  Part of that is the Bi-Polar, but part of that is just me.  Your black and white can be infuriating at times, but I need it.  You, by dint of our relationship, can say things that other people cannot.  In general, I need that gray.  Seeing things in black and white, as strange as this sounds, is confusing to me.  So, when I need to see things as black and white, I really appreciate having you around.  Most of our tiffs these days has a lot to do with these differing life perspectives, but I love that we can be so intrinsically different and yet understand each other so well, even help each other understand others a bit better.  I’m not always so good at saying that I appreciate your straightforward perspective at the time, but know that even when you frustrate me, I’m glad of it.

10) I’m glad we have starfish.  I don’t know if you used it or if it’s squirreled away in your room somewhere so that my feelings aren’t hurt, but I’m glad you’re the one who has the starfish journal.  I’m glad we can share that.  I’m glad that we do the small gestures and take the tiny moments to make sure that our individual burdens aren’t overwhelming.  I may not come to you for comfort and solace when I’m struggling, but I do know that you’ll always watch out for me.  I may only get an occasional,” And how are things going?”  But, I know that that question is the product of love and concern and frequent thoughts sent my way.   You’re the brother who got me a hardback copy of The Phantom Tollbooth when you noticed I had read the family paperback copy to bits and pieces.  You always seem to find the quietest of ways to let me know you understand and care.  And yet those whispers, those minute gestures, are some of the loudest memories.  And that’s what starfish means to me.  It means that you’re always there for me, just like I’m always there for you.

Monkey, I love you.  I’m so happy to have you in my family.  I wouldn’t be complete without you.