As far as my grandparents are concerned, my brother is a sinner — a big, fat, stinking sinner.
At the ripe, young age of 19 my brother is living 10 hours away with his equally under-aged girlfriend.
The kid has more responsibilities than he has hairs on his face.
They’ve leased a two bedroom apartment, and for all intents and purposes have started a life together. She is working as a nanny while he finishes up his degree in chemistry at William & Mary.
Think what you will — I know it’s weird, premature, scary, etc, etc. But my brother came home today to visit and I have never seen him so happy. He literally waltzed into the house singing and threw his gangly arms around our mother.
So maybe they’re moving too fast, maybe society and God (grandma and grandpa) will not understand, but who cares? Does antiquated religious doctrine really apply to a young man whose soul mate may not live into her 30s? Can’t the rules be bent for a little girl whose life is being destroyed slowly by cystic fibrosis?
I want so much for my brother — my little brother — the smart-mouthed sweetheart who I helped raise. I used to want the normal course for him — drunken college nights, on and off girlfriends, naivety, and all the time in the world. That, however, turned out not to be in the cards for him.
So I’ve learned to go with it. I’ve learned to trust that he knows what’s best for him. He has taught me not to worry and figure the rest out later. He has taught me that life is short, and to do what makes you happy before it’s too late.
Isn’t that all you can hope for in life? To be happy even just for a brief moment in time? That’s what I’ve learned from my brother. At 17 he had already committed his life to his terminally ill girlfriend. He has defied convention, tradition, and my grandmother to spend as much time as he possibly can with the love of his life.
He’s not afraid to do what makes his heart sing and his days worthwhile. I am so proud of him.
Here’s a short story I wrote about my brother and his girlfriend: the two bravest people I know.
Kyle and Beth lean over the glass case in Kay Jewelers, both of their faces just inches from the surface. Kyle puts his hand on the small of Beth’s back, and they share an excited smile. Beth begins to cough and Kyle moves his hand between her shoulders as she rocks up and down.
The woman behind the counter walks slowly over to them. She half-smiles.
“Are you looking for promise rings?” the woman asks them, her voice filled with disdain.
Kyle looks at her and straightens his back. His 19-year-old face becomes serious. He sets his square jaw.
“We’re looking for engagement rings,” he tells her.
He smiles again at Beth, and puts his arm around her frail shoulders. They continue to look through the glass, their heads almost touching.
Kyle’s 21-year-old sister stands silently behind them. This is the fifth jewelry store they’ve visited, and she still can’t believe this is happening. She has never seen him so happy.
Kyle and Beth give up the search for the day, and head back to his parent’s house. It’s time for Beth’s second session of physical therapy of the day. Kyle sits on the couch, and Beth lies on her stomach across his lap. Kyle begins to pound on her back as Beth coughs.
This is part of Beth’s treatment. Beth has Cystic Fibrosis. She is terminally ill.
Since they were 13 years old, there has been no one else for Kyle and Beth.
Kyle is in his second year at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, and Beth lives at home in Rhode Island. Despite it all – the distance, the illness, and the pressure of Kyle’s chemistry major, they have never been more in love, or more determined to make a life together.
If they are lucky, Beth will live to be 30 years old. Kyle’s plan is for them to get married right after he graduates from college. If they are lucky Beth will get pregnant shortly thereafter and they will start a family. At some point, before he is 30 years old, Kyle will be a single father and a widower.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
On the couch, as Kyle pounds Beth’s back he says something that makes her laugh, and her bubbly laugh fills the house. But it quickly turns into a horrifying coughing fit. Kyle waits for the coughing to stop and then leans down and kisses her on the forehead. He gets up and fishes a handful of pills out of her pocketbook and hands them to her.
In the kitchen, Kyle’s sister stands hugging their mother. Tears run down their cheeks, because they know that some day the laughing will stop forever and Kyle’s happiness will end.