Hey Brother, I Love You
By: Amilya Wilson
On the last day of August, 2021, my younger brother had a brain aneurysm. He was 15 and alone when it happened. Luckily, he has good friends and good grandparents, so he was rushed to the hospital where he was tested for a wide array of problems. Eventually, he was taken to McMaster Children’s Hospital. He stayed for three weeks. He’s alright now, and doesn’t remember any of this.
I, however, do remember; I doubt I will ever forget.
Watching your brother be wheeled into the emergency wing of a children’s hospital, unconscious and hooked up to tubes to keep him alive, is not something that just slips your mind. I think the memory of me clinging to my sister outside the emergency room doors, swearing to ourselves that we will not cry, because there is nothing to cry about yet, refusing to go to a hotel until 1 in the morning when we were assured he was not going to die before we could get back to the hospital the next morning, will remain seared in my mind for the rest of my life.
After that, I was alone a lot. My sister had moved away for university, and both of my parents were living at the Ronald McDonald House. This was not how I imagined starting my final year of highschool, and this was definitely not how he imagined starting grade ten. People brought food to the house, and my mom’s friend came to town to take me shopping for clothes and school supplies. It was a weird, terrible time.
Eventually, my mom came back home because she had to go to work, so at least I had another person in the house. Pretty much all I could think about for those three long weeks was how much I would give to hear my brother running down the stairs to bother me while I was trying to sleep, or do that weird thing he does where he feels the need to pile four blankets on me when I’m sitting on the couch.
He came home looking thin and tired and remarkably bald. He had lost twenty pounds, was on about six different medications, and they had shaved all of his hair off when he had brain surgery. The hospital dropped off a wheelchair so that he could go on walks outside, but he refused to use it. He would rather be cooped up in the house for two months than be the neighborhood kid in the wheelchair. He had to sleep for at least sixteen hours a day, and we had to treat him like a work of stained glass: frail and breakable, something to be looked at, but not touched.
Before all of this happened, my family was not very affectionate; I hugged my parents maybe once a month. Family time was not really a thing. Everyone was always so busy. My sister and I were competitive dancers, both my parents worked full time, and my brother was always building with legos or off biking with his friends. We saw each other for a few minutes each day, maybe in the car on the way to one activity or another, and that was enough. It wasn’t that my parents were cold to us, or that my siblings and I didn’t get along. We loved each other very much, but life gets in the way, and when your dad doesn’t get home from work until 6pm, and you dance sixteen hours a week on top of having to keep up your grade point average, and your mom has four classes with thirty students each, hanging out with the people you see on holidays anyway falls to the back burner.
Before, I couldn’t remember the last time my dad had asked me how my day was. One time, I went five days without seeing him. I promise that we do really care about each other. It just wasn’t our top priority. My brother was annoying, as most younger brothers are, and I would rather hangout with my friends than deal with him. We did have some things in common. We both love ‘Star Wars’, and decided to watch all of the TV shows during the pandemic. He even asked to workout with me sometimes. Him, my sister, and I liked to have movie nights. But as the COVID-19 pandemic — and the isolation that came with it — dragged on, we really just got sick of each other.
Of course, there is nothing like a deeply traumatic experience to change everything.
After he came home, he was still severely annoying. The aneurysm had pretty much vacated his brain of any filter, so he basically just said what came into his mind at any given time. I didn’t care. For the week after he came home, we were pretty much attached at the hip. We had sleepovers in my room. I made him dinner. I was really upset when I had to go to school and leave him for five hours a day. My sister came home for reading week, and the three of us did everything we could think of together. Of course, some of this was just the shock. We had almost lost him, so of course we wanted to be near him. But something changed when he came back from the hospital. It affected our whole family. My dad asked me how my day was. My mom took breaks from marking assignments to come down and ask me about what I was working on. I really didn’t mind anymore when my brother came to sit on my bed and talk while I was trying to fold laundry or clean my room. We were nicer to each other. We also started hanging out more. When my brother and I started a new ‘Star Wars’ show, we invited my dad to join us. Us kids started doing all the grocery shopping, purely so that we could have something to do together.
The most important thing that changed was this: we started telling each other how we felt. We started saying, “I Love You” before going to bed every night. I would come home from a night at dance and my brother would say that he missed me. These are things that we didn’t really do before. I mean, of course it makes sense that, after a traumatic event, we would value our time together more. But the entire expression of my family's love changed. We became nicer, warmer, more willing to hear each other. And I wonder, what if we had started doing this earlier? Why did it take one of our loved ones nearly dying for us to have a meal together? How many families will continue on the same path of isolation and independence?
I also wonder how long this will last. My brother is already attending school again, so the effects of the aneurysm on him are fading, but will they last on our family? I dearly hope so.
A family can be so many different things. Whether yours is by blood, friendship, circumstance, or a mixture of each, tell them that you love them today. Sit down for dinner, squeeze them hard and love them with all you have.