Bridging the Gap

Kevin is a gentle giant.  I look across the table at his massive hands curled around a mug of steaming tea, and remember how thin and frail he was as after a tonsillectomy when he was five.  Now he is huge and strong- six feet, five inches, with broad shoulders and those hands- I mean, how does he manage fine motor tasks with those hands?

He has dropped by, quite unexpectedly.  I can’t remember the last time he visited.  Perhaps it was when he helped me move here, but that was a few years ago.

We are of the same blood.  We shared a house with one bathroom, two parents, eight siblings and more pets that we could count.  Kevin always jumped up to greet me when I came home from college.  I sewed costumes for him out of old band uniforms when he performed in his middle school performance of “Oliver!”  I remember him as a toddler and as a teen, and I remember how he went off to the Coast Guard as a round-faced boy and returned as a lean, capable man.

We share a love for music and an undying devotion to our children.  It is curious that our kids are so much alike in many ways.  His Emily is a social activist at fifteen, sleeping on the State House lawn to heighten awareness for the homeless.  My Abby slept in a cardboard box for Invisible Children. His Eli lets his home work slide, but aces every exam.  My Gabriel did the same thing when he was the same age.

Like our brother Rick, Kevin is a firefighter.  The night I was in labor with Gabriel, he sprained his ankle while fighting a house fire.  I remember the nurse telling me that my brother was in the hospital’s emergency room.  For a moment I was fully distracted from my own pain, afraid he was badly injured.  It was with much relief that I found out it was only his ankle.  In the end, he would heal from his injury before I did from my cesarean section.

 He says he’s never really had a close call, and is grateful for that.  When I ask him if he ever gets scared, he evenly holds my gaze and simply says, “No.  I don’t get scared.  I sometimes back out when it gets too dangerous, but I don’t get scared.”

I cannot relate to this.  The closest I get to fire is throwing a lit match toward a gas pilot from a three-foot distance.  I get dizzy if I look down the stairwell from the second floor.  I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to be inside a burning building, or running up a ladder to climb on a burning roof.   But Kevin doesn’t lie.  He trusts in his training, and he doesn’t get scared.

Kevin’s faith is as obvious as his size.  He doesn’t speak about it very much, but he follows a true and dedicated path.  True to an old nickname, he is a lighthouse- a towering lamp, silently illuminating a path for those who seek refuge from life’s storms.

It occurs to me that my brother and I don’t see each other nearly enough. If we are not careful, life has a way of separating us from the ones we love.  We’ve not talked, just the two of us, in way too long. In many ways, he is a stranger to me. The sharp realization of this cuts into my heart and suddenly, my eyes sting with tears. 

I take a deep breath, blink a few times, and pour us another cup of tea.  We sit at the table and catch up; our talk punctuated by Kevin’s deep and full laughter.  Like me, he laughs easily and often.  I’m reminded of something Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”  Maybe it’s been too long, and maybe we’ve been too far apart, but it’ll be okay.  Love and laughter will bridge us together once again.

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