June 7, 2009

Incoming Call

I put on some folk music as the sink was filling with water, and opened my door to let more cool air. The church bells played hymns I remember from Sundays as a kid. And in the middle of this cacophony, my brother called from roughly 7,000 miles away.

The Smith family is not good on the phone. I'm not sure why it makes a difference, but being in a room together can mean hours of laughing, while phone calls are traditionally short, occasionally awkward, and usually full of some dead time. I talk to Andy on the computer just like I talk to Sky, and he has even been brave enough to use the video chat a couple of times. So getting a phone call from him in spite of all this is pretty rare. Today ended up being a good half hour talk, and it was really good to feel like he wasn't quite so far away.

We had talked about it online yesterday, and the same holds true for the conversation this morning-sometimes he'll email me something so outrageously funny that I am dying to tell my coworkers, "Listen to this!". I've gotten raised eyebrows when I keep laughing, stopping for the next paragraph, and laughing again, my eyes getting watery from something he wrote. But they don't know Andy, and even if they did, they wouldn't know what he was talking about. It occurs to me in these notes that my family's sense of humor is a little off. I'm a little relieved that Sky and I can laugh together.

It's strange to watch my 'little' brother this way, who couldn't say my name right for years while he worked on his Rs. Setting up green plastic men on the floor together, it never occurred to me that he would carry a gun every day. I would have never seen him as an 'army guy', just like I would never have expected the kid who hated reading to have stacks of books on his dresser at home or write me long emails. When he went to basic training, I thought about our relationship in a different way, and wondered if this was the beginning of the drifting apart that happens to siblings when they're older. Somehow, though, I think our friendship now is probably the best it's been. It feels like we 'get' each other.

He hasn't been here much the past couple of years. I do cheesy things like walk in my army tee that I bought when we went to his graduation in Georgia, and carry the messenger bag that looks just like his Illinois guard patch. It means nothing to anyone I walk by, but it means something to me. I can't wait for him to be back, because it's been six months since we've laughed in the same room, and that's far too long. He's got plenty of stories to tell, and I will love to sit on the back porch steps with him and listen, while Dad lingers near with a cigarette.

And maybe, Sky will come, too.

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