Monday, July 19, 2010

A letter to the BIG SUPER BROTHER

Dear Brody,

Someday we will all have this time chronicled in our hearts, our minds, and in this blog. You will read these words and see your name scattered here and there, but the vast majority has been about Gideon. It is insane to me the way you already have quietly accepted the backseat in this experience, never begging for special treatment or even remotely equal treatment as your brother. You go about playing, chatting, and avoiding the steroid-Gideon with your same humongous heart and happy soul, but you do so in a quieter, more wallflower, kind of way. I never want my superstar dancer/rockstar/super hero/sport lover to ever feel like your voice should somehow be muted because of this deafening cancer that is filling this house with that extra noise. Please read this excerpt as yours. Only yours. Please let the words drench you in the love I have for you -- it is no less than the love I have for your baby brother. You are not just "Gideon's brother," you are "Brody!" You are "The strong big brother with a heart that goes on to the heavens and back, and with a soul steadier and stronger than any mountain I have ever climbed (even though I only climbed one, but hey! It was a mountain)!" Even though your name means "brother" in lucky Irish, it is also synonymous with patient one, Socrates-like insight, unequivocal imagination, thought-provoking muser, one any human (or animal) can trust, and pure spirit. You are the big brother, my first baby (and always my baby -- even when you're 80, remember?). This world needs YOU, too, Brody Thomas Schripsema!

Yesterday morning every facet of your eyes shone with radiant awe. You triumphantly marched into the kitchen where I was pouring yet another cup of coffee and breathlessly announced, "Gideon is my best friend again! Come see! HURRY!" You pawed at my mug-less left hand and caught my pinky which you used to steer me into the family room.

"We made this...TOGETHER!" you proudly shouted, and with a Vanna-like TADA! fanning of your hand, you gestured to the building block motorcycle course, monster truck stomping ground and surrounding city. "WATCH! He'll even SHARE!" you screeched with more enthusiasm than I've heard out of you in months. You centered yourself in front of your little brother, took a steadying breath, and tentatively, oh-so-carefully asked, "Gideon? May I please use your yellow monster truck?"

"Sure, Brody!" Gideon smiled at me as if he, too, knew something magical just happened that has laid dormant underneath crazy drugs in his system for 29 days.

This is when you made your mommy's eyes well-up, Mr. Brody: Your own eyes grew huge in astonishment and your jaw dropped in my direction as if to say, "SEE?! I TOLD YOU! How amazing IS this?!" and you slowly shook your head with a wide smile plastered on your face, inched closer to Gideon, and swung one arm around him in your trademark "brother hug" -- complete with a pat. For the first time in a long time, Gideon leaned in and I noticed you flinch as if you just realized that what we had been waiting for for such an intolerably long time had come to pass: your brother and best friend returned!

I am blessed to have witnessed that moment, and that was spa-treatment for my soul, I promise. But you are so much more than that moment, Brody. You are every moment. Your words curl around my heart and infuse me with instant trust. When you say to me, "Mommy, I promise I'll be careful," I BELIEVE you. I feel calmed by your confidence, and you are only five. How many moms can say that? I would imagine not many.

Throughout this cancer-bit, you have cheered your brother on in the medicine chair. When Gideon made a comment about how "fat" his shoulders were (thank you, stranger walking your dog. Or not. Please keep your comments to yourself), you said, "They aren't FAT! They are football player shoulders! You are getting so strong fighting those sharks, Gideon!" How you came up with that reply to make your brother smile so quickly while I still stood dumbstruck because Gideon even realized his shoulders were bigger, I'll never know.

While I have had to sit in the Clinic for hours at a time, you let yourself be shuffled from caretaker to caretaker. Every morning you have looked at me with sad puppy-dog acceptance and asked, "Is Gideon going to the hospital today? Then where am I going?" as if you were some sort of dish-to-pass from neighbor to neighbor, family member to family member. It is unfair. Truly. We should be heading to the beach right now, or the zoo, or the Nature Center, or on those hot and miserable days: The Airzoo. But, our Universe has taken on a different path than what we anticipated and you. don't. even. complain. You truly are my hero, B-boy.

Thank you for inspiring me in the car. It is as if your booster seat is your Philosopher Think Tank. I watch you in the rearview mirror with your brow all scrunched up, and I get excited because I know you're cooking up something spectacular in that noggin of yours. I always wait for the furrow to smooth out and a light of old soul understanding to come on in those grey-blue eyes of yours (and those lashes! Swoon, Brody! Those are lashes that are going to slice through hearts one day, I know it!) before I ask, "What are you thinking about, Brody?" Here are just a precious FEW of the things you have answered in the recent past:
- "The bug guts on the windshield are beautiful. They are like snowflakes that never melt."
- "Why are people trying to drive too fast when there are so many cool cars, fast motorcycles, and outside stuff to look at?"
- "When you say, 'Come on!' it can mean, 'Come on, let's go!' because we are leaving to go somewhere, or 'DRIVE FASTER!'"
- "Those poor, naked trees. I hope they know that they'll get new leaves in the spring and that they're not too cold waiting for that to happen."
Yes, those are a priceless few. You are my Socrates jammed into a 5-year-old body.

Thank you for having me find you yesterday head-to-toe in beige, a belt wrapped around my beige shirt you "borrowed" from the dirty clothes basket, and a light-saber hooked into that belt. I was calling for you for an inordinate amount of time, and you wouldn't answer. When I found you, I got that mom voice of how-come-you-didn't-answer-me?! frustration. You looked at me with a steady eye and calmly stated, "You didn't call me. I'm Anakin Skywalker. Call me Anakin, and I'll come." How could I get mad at that retort? You were the spitting image of that character. You studied the picture you had open on your bed and you did a better job of being his double than Steven Spielberg himself could have done for you. Your boundless imagination always amazes me, mister. Dress-up with you is living the life of that character as close to real life as anyone could get. You are my detail boy, my quiet introspective studier. While I have never been quiet and I have always found my energy from others, you channel yours from that powerful spirit within you. I am in awe of you. I think I've already said that, but it needs to be repeated!

I am publishing this tidbit, this infinitesimal pinpoint of what makes you incredible to anyone who cares to read it. Even if it is never even looked at, I will know it is here: on this screen and wrapped within every layer of my heart. (Don't you roll your eyes at your cheesy mom, thirteen year old Brody... I know you love that I did this!) You may get looked over because your brother is the one with cancer, but YOU were the one chosen to be his brother. YOU were the one put on this earth first so that you could show him the ropes and to make him feel more confident. YOU will be the one who will guide him more than anyone can fathom (other than other little boys with big brothers). YOU are the one God knew could handle this burden with the grace, maturity, love, and unending patience that only YOU possess. How you have been able to quietly withstand being Gideon's punching bag (without even tattling! I've had to walk in on it and step in), and continue to love him unconditionally is beyond my capacity to understand. You love with your entire being, and it is your entire being that I love.

You are cherished. Adored. Loved beyond all measure. Please don't ever forget that, Big Bro B. YOU are more than a brother, by the way. Your soul can stand alone and it will and has changed all of us for the better.



  1. Most beautiful words I have ever read in print. What a phenomenal big brother! I feel like his "Socrates" thoughts are encouraged by his "Plato-like" mommy. What you write makes me want to be a better person. I see everything in so much more clarity after I'm done reading your blog. Thank you.

  2. What a blessing you are to these two precious boys. Thank you for sharing your deepest, inner you! xoxo

  3. What an amazing gift you have given your son! This is beautiful, Amanda.

  4. all i can say.

  5. Pulitzer. Pulitzer. Pulitzer. If this experience doesn't make you dive into the life of a full-fledge author, I don't know what will. Your words move me. They dance. Are you still teaching English? If not, the world is missing out.

  6. There are no words to tell you how this letter to Brody touched me.
    xoxo ~Deb

  7. Three cheers for Super B, for our tough little Goblin, and for you, Manda, Super Mom.
    I have a photo on my phone for posterity, of Anakin "Brody" Skywalker ;-)

  8. Tears....and so much joy. You are AMAZING!

  9. Manda, this, as all of your posts, is amazing. Thank you for sharing your heart as only you can with your beautiful gift of words, for your precious firstborn boy with all of us and for letting us know so much of who he is. You and Tom are abundantly blessed with these fabulous little men God has entrusted to your care. His Name be praised!!

  10. Beautiful sentiment Amanda. You don't know me but I have been praying every day for your family.

    In a way I envy you. You can see the world in a way few people ever will. You have seen the darkness and because of it you know how much the light means.

    May God bless you and your family. Your spirit is a witness to others of the power of love to overcome all evils.

  11. Thank you for sharing your families story with us. This entry is truly breath taking! A writer you should definitely be.
    May the Lord continue to hold your family in his loving arms during this difficult time.
    Love & Blessings:>)

  12. It is another amazing entry. Brody knows how special he is just by being with you. This is a beautiful tribute to an amazing little boy who carries the burdens of everyone he loves. Your words are magical. He is such a special person and even though you may not always be able to remind him, this is a great affirmation for him to read (or have read to him) someday. Perhaps on those low days when he may need an extra boost to get through those "difficult brother" moods. Thank you for sharing another piece of your heart and your rock, Brody. He will now hold a special place in our hearts, too. More than before because now we know him a little better. You are an inspiration to moms everywhere. xoxoxo

  13. You truly are an amazing person Amanda..You inspire me every time I read your blogs and this one melts my heart. Thankyou for sharing and God Bless You and your family!!