There’s something I’ve always loved about having two older brothers. I don’t know if it was because I felt like I was cooler because of that fact, or that it was nice to feel as though I was being initiated into a fraternity throughout my entire childhood. I’m pretty sure it was the cool thing, however, I think it’s safe to say that your actual fraternity initiations were payback for the years of being my pledge-masters.
As I sit in front of my computer, attempting to capture the bond the three of us share on paper, I find that even my handy dandy thesaurus has not aided in this daunting task. Our childhood was surely chockfull of shenanigans, and plenty of teasing (with me as the recipient of many of your best taunts), but our relationship took an interesting turn on December 25th, 2010.
I was fifteen and you were both out of the house. Ross was studying (at least that’s what he said) at Michigan and Andrew adulting (sort of) in New York City. But all jokes aside, our lives were very different. However, you both managed to be home for that particular Christmas in 2010, a day I think about often. Mental illness, as I often like to remind people, is typically swept under the rug. And in our small town, if “juicy” news gets out, it spreads like wildfire. So as I sat in the GBMC Emergency Room I worried I was an embarrassment of a sister. You two were (and still are) my heroes, and I felt as though I had let you down. I didn’t hang tough like a Gothelf, I crumbled under the weight of depression. With several years’ separation from that day I now know how inaccurate my perceptions were about each of those vicious thoughts.
Despite my misguided worries, you came to visit me the very next day. You even spent football Sunday watching the Raven’s game in a group therapy room, at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which I know wasn’t exactly ideal. To some the act may seem trivial, but watching football together was our tradition. You helped give my life a sense of normalcy, something I so desperately desired. On days you couldn’t be there mom and dad brought me cards from you. Writing that sentence makes my eyes fill with tears. The happy kind. In fact, I never threw those cards away and sometimes read them on days I feel as if nobody loves or cares about me. You opened your hearts to me in a way that others in my life couldn’t. You accepted the illness, you accepted the path my life would follow in the years to come, and ultimately, you accepted me. Having your love during a point in my life where I felt absolutely lost, was one of the most beautiful and powerful sources of healing.
Over the years distance has made it difficult to see one another regularly. And despite our ever-changing zip codes I’ve never felt closer to you guys. I know my illness didn’t just affect me, I know that you were not left unscathed. I may never understand your pain, the pain of hearing your little sister say she no longer wanted to live. I know I caused a great deal of hurt within this family so this note here is your well-deserved thank you. This is a thank you for always standing up for me and having my back, a thank you for always saying you were a phone call or text away and meaning it, a thank you for guiding me when I was unsure of my next step, a thank you for supporting me through all of my steps, and my plethora of missteps, a thank you for sharing the wisdom you gained making your own boneheaded mistakes, and a thank you for loving me in all the moments that I am difficult to love.
You both make me so proud. I love to talk about what you both are doing in your lives. I’m constantly inspired by your resilience and tenacity, in fact, it gives me a renewed sense of life. I would not be half the person I am today if I didn’t have you to look up to. And maybe my depression will continue to be a part of my life, but so will the two of you. I would never bet against a Gothelf in competition as we aren’t gracious losers. So putting the three Gothelf children together seems like the inevitable defeat of my mental illness, and any other obstacle we may face together.
You don’t choose your siblings and throughout our childhood I’m pretty sure I wished I could return you two every now and then. That being said, I’m really glad that wasn’t a possibility as I wouldn’t trade either of you for the world. I’ve learned a lot from both of you, like how to swear, how to fire off a great comeback, how to take life a little less seriously, and how to live life to the fullest. No matter where life takes us you will always be my big brothers. I love you infinitely Andrew and Ross.