My Brother: A Bit of Nostalgia

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When I was born, he told the neighbors, “It’s another girl.” He was eleven and already had three sisters.

When I was five, I rode on his handlebars to kindergarten. We crossed over a brook. I was the only kid in kindergarten that knew that water was H20. Then my brother left for college.

When I was eight, he spent the summer at home. He read Les Miserables. I was the only eight-year-old who knew about Jean Valjean and a loaf of bread.

When I was eleven, I stood up in his wedding. I wore a mother-made organdy dress with a cumberband, my first fancy dress, that wrinkled badly.

When I was in high school, I visited him, his wife, and baby out east when he was attending Harvard for his PhD. I don’t know how I got there from Michigan, but they took me home. Part of the time, I slept on a board my brother had placed diagonally from the top of the passenger seat to the back window. An ingenious way for me to be able to stretch out to sleep. I imagine the baby got the back seat.

After I married and had children, we drove from Chicago to my brother’s home in Michigan every year for Thanksgiving. He, along with one of my sisters, would carve the turkey. Then he would stand at the head of the adults’ table and open with prayer.

My brother, Dewey, was a philosopher and a man of a few well-chosen words. I admired his intellect and loved it when his face broke into grin.

When I earned my PhD in nursing at age 49, I sent him a card, signing off From one PhD to another. I was proud that this little sister, the “it’s another girl” sister, could write him such a fun note.

When I had an opportunity in nursing education to advance administratively or go back to the classroom, I called Dewey, a long-time faculty member. “You’ll have more fun in the classroom….” I went back to the classroom. I loved it and stayed until I retired.

Eventually, we aged. We began to spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s son’s home. Then he passed away at 74 from pancreatic cancer. I drove up to see him the week of his death. When I asked him what was most important in his life, he answered family. That was 2005.

Now it’s 2022. I am 80. My husband has passed away. Lung cancer, 2018. I’ve written a book about our experience. Curious, I searched my maiden name, Hoitenga, on Amazon Books. And there was my brother, one of his books–Faith and Reason From Plato to Plantinga: An Introduction to Reformed Epistomology--sandwiched between my nursing book and my cancer book. Another of his books peaked from below on my screen shot.

I got teary. Memories of our few, but significant, talks surfaced in my mind. I loved, simply loved, that I’d added my maiden name on my book covers and could see my books sandwiching one of his.

Dewey was right. Family is most important. My husband, Marv, concurred. Never living near relatives, my kids and I knew never to balk at attending out-of-town reunions. “We’re going,” Marv would say, “because family is family.”