Being a middle child gets a bad rap.  I’m convinced that being born in the middle forces you to develop some extremely useful survival skills, tools that help you succeed later in life.  Do you spend some of your childhood getting overlooked?  Possibly.  Does it pay off in the long run? Again, possibly.

But it did for me.

So I guess my parents’ decision to bless our family with another bundle of joy after me goes in the plus column.  After all, it did end up giving me my baby brother.

I know I was a little gushy about my big sis the other day.  Maybe it’s because we’re growing older, or maybe it’s that we’re shifting roles in the family dynamic.  I do know one thing for sure, though.  Life would be a hell of a lot harder right now if it wasn’t for Bee and J.

There’s just something special about the people who’ve known you your entire life.  The ones who helped make a plate of cookies for Santa, got dragged to your sporting events, and knew you were scared of the dark.  The people who watched you grow through every childhood stage and into adulthood while they were on their own journey.

I simply can’t imagine my life without them.

Like Bee, my brother also lands in the way-awesome category.  He’s three years younger than me so he got stuck with the “baby” designation.  It’s a hard one to shake, too.  The guy’s in his forties and still, every once in a while, I catch myself wondering how on earth my baby brother could be doing such incredible things in the world.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

3 siblings

J. was a precocious kid.  Bee remembers more about him as a little-little than I do because of the age difference but he was a typical younger brother – into stuff and always around.  This didn’t become a great thing until we were older and he was less “little brother” and more “good guy.”

He and I did the hopscotch thing, too.  Three years between us was just enough to make it so we weren’t usually in the same school together.  Except for my last move with my parents, the one to Massachusetts in my senior year of high school.

We moved to a small New England town south of Boston (picture Witches of Eastwick and you’ve got the gist) where I spent my last year of high school flopping around like a fish out of water.  (Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh…let’s just say I never did feel like I fit in there.)

They had a combination junior/senior high school – the schools were connected, so even though I didn’t see him during the day J. was actually in the same building as me.  This memory is most vivid during a family crisis, when I was trying to be the big sister and found out just how important my brother’s support was.

I remember getting a message at school that my mom had been in a car accident.  Nothing too serious, I think her car had gone off the road into a ditch, and I was to stay in school until the end of the day.  Well, there was no way that was happening.  (This would be one of the few times living in a small town worked to my advantage.  In any of my other schools, marching into the office and announcing “Katie” would be giving me a ride home would have been met with RULES.  There?  They knew the girl, they knew the circumstances, no problem.)

I recall thinking I should let my brother know I was leaving.  I’m don’t exactly remember why – maybe because we rode the bus home together and I didn’t want him to worry when I wasn’t on it?  I do remember popping over to the junior high to tell him I was going and giving him the same message I’d received – stay here, finish out the day – with the same result of ‘absolutely not.’  Until that moment I’d still thought of him as my little brother, but when he walked out of that school with me to check on mom I was so grateful to have him by my side.  We were stronger together.

J.’s gone on to do extraordinary things in his life.  If I can borrow a phrase from sista-friend, he does Big Time Stuff.  He went to the Naval Academy, an experience I truly can’t begin to imagine.  He’s been serving in the Navy ever since, and he’s in the midst of a brilliant career.

Without posting his resume (which is, frankly, ridiculously intimidating) I’ll just say that my brother’s done amazing things in a short period of time.  He’s served at sea, worked at the Pentagon, published several books, and been an instructor at the War College, to name a few. He commanded a ship in 2013, and at the Change of Command ceremony I couldn’t help thinking, “Are you kidding?!  You’re sending my baby brother to sea as captain on a combat ship?  This thing can shoot MISSILES, for the love!”

J.’s completed graduate work in international relations, a complex field that I find incredibly challenging in and of itself.  It’s extremely difficult to look at someone who’s discussing the ramifications of politics in the Pacific-Asia region and integrate it with a kid who wore footy pajamas on Christmas morning.

I look up to my brother for so many reasons.  He’s open-minded, dedicated, supportive, and incredibly smart.  He’s always there for me, no matter what kind of crazy might be going on in my life, and he’s a wonderful uncle to my kids.  J. has a big heart.  That might not show up on the resume, but it’s at the top of my list.

My brother has qualities I’m working hard to achieve in my own life.  He’s the kind of person I’d want in charge in a crisis – he’s calm and listens to all sides of a problem before looking for the best solutions.  He and BrightSide are a lot alike in that way.

I’ve been remarkably blessed with two siblings who are wonderful beyond words.

Love you, little brother!