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  • Posted on January 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

So, my brother came for Christmas, stayed through the New Year, and returned to his own college in New York City last week. It’s difficult to put into words what such a lengthy visit did for the rest of my family. On the one hand, my brother and I do a fairly good job keeping in touch. We’re both very busy. I have work and school and family. He has work and school, but his school is much more demanding than mine. So, weeks go by that we don’t communicate at all, but there’s still a connection between us. Usually, that seems like enough.

Having him here for such a long time—three whole weeks!—made me feel how disconnected we’d become. On the one hand, it is necessary. It’s even inevitable. On the other hand, this time together was a stark reminder of how much we miss by not being a regular part of each other’s lives.

Part of it is the intellectual stimulus. My brother is immersed in studies that are very different from my own. He also supplements his studies with additional interests beyond my own. I do the same with interests and studies that differ from his. When we get together, we both have a lot to talk about that enriches each other’s worlds.

Beyond this boon, Patrick’s studies and his interests enable him to connect with my boys in a way that Mark and I cannot. While we see their talent, we cannot grasp it or nurture it as well as we’d like. Patrick has an eye for things we cannot see. Whereas we recognize their talent, at least in part, on the basis that their visual arts have already surpassed our abilities; Patrick sees and appreciates their art as only a fellow artist can. Of course, Patrick is an architect, which is a kind of art, whereas their art is less functional. But still, he has an eye for it that we lack, but has the words to bring us further into it.

The bigger part of it is, of course, the emotional stimulus. It’s not that I’m lonely by any stretch of the imagination. With a loving husband and three loving not-so-little boys, my days are full of emotional connections. On the other hand, aside from my mother, my days are rarely shared with others outside my family unit. I don’t have much in the ways of “local” friends, at least not those that I spend time with on a regular basis. I have “virtual” friends all over the world. As much as these relationships mean to me, it’s not the same as sitting down with a cup of coffee and chatting or playing a game of cards. When my brother was here, we did a lot of both. The time together became so precious that I didn’t even try to work. Instead, I devoted myself to soaking up every opportunity I could with my brother.

Now, he’s back at school. Soon, my own semester will start up with two new classes. Life goes on and I must go on with it. I’m not even sure when I’ll get to see my brother again. This summer he’s going away for some international studies, so it’ll probably be Thanksgiving or Christmas before I see him again.

I think of the other people in my life who I’ve tried to stay connected to, despite the distance. For a while, my best friend from high school (who is also my husband’s foster sister) was an occasional visitor. She lived in Iowa, then Indiana, and so we didn’t see her often, but at least a few times of year we’d get to connect in person. Now, she’s moved to Alaska. My best friend from middle school tried to reconnect last year, but our phone calls seemed to pass each other by and our connection seemed to fail. As much as I want to try again, part of me fears the moment has passed.

I’m not lonely, not in the traditional meaning of the word. My life is full and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for all the people and activities that enrich my life on a daily basis. But this taste of something else, something different leaves me wondering if, perhaps, my life could be fuller still if I knew how to stay connected with those who are on their own paths, paths which are so different from mine.

More than even that, my brother’s presence made my home a happier place for all of us, and that’s definitely something to cherish.