The best kind of thank you

A few weeks ago my brother called me. That sentence in itself could be the start of so many short stories about so many different things –– family, siblings, the importance of communication, phone calls in general –– or maybe even a sarcastic take on the millennial generation and how no body ever calls anyone any more, preferring texts or snap chats over clutching hunks of lithium to our ears.

Anyways, brother called me, just to check in since my parents were on vacation. He’s eight years my senior and is a police officer in Toronto working on his masters in terrorism- I’m an aspiring Carrie Bradshaw trapped in the body of a 21-year-old  Con Ed student. We are really different when it comes to the way we see the world, but we share a love of running- a hobby I picked up from him. We will always fight over the crunchiest potatoes or the cheese that’s placed on top of the salad. The point is, we’re not that close, but we’re still family.

I ask him what he’s up to for the night, “Oh nothing, just going to wallow in my sorrows and call it a night.” I ask him if he’s okay with that: yeah. Does he want to go for a movie: no, too much work to do. Was he sure? I can totally hang out even if he has to do work: No Mare, it’s fine.
We hang up, I roll over, and then it clicks.

It wasn’t fine- he wasn’t fine and I wasn’t okay with going about my night knowing that someone I admire was feeling so low. I thought to myself, I can sit here and think about him, or I can get off my butt and actually do something for him.

It was that shift an attitude that would change everything.

Off I went to his house to surprise him, stopping at Shoppers Drug Mart to get some health magazines, scented soap and candy just before heading to Starbucks.  When I got to his door, he was surprised to see me –– I usually only see him when he comes over to the family house on weekends for lunch or for Sunday dinner.

“What’s in the bag?” he asked and I responded “just presents. I just wanted to make sure you were okay, thought these things might pick you up a bit.” He went quiet, I got anxious and instead of catching up or asking what was really wrong, I looked around his bachelor pad, picking up objects and making small talk, interjecting with little bouts of sarcasm. After a few minutes I start to leave because his little thank you makes my eyes prickle. Heading downstairs I put on my shoes and then turn around to say bye. His face is still, then scrunches quickly and we’re both in tears.

I hug him tightly on the stairs and he stands still, but I’ve never loved him more. When I get to the car I call my sister and we discuss what just happened. We both are in awe of that moment and who he is despite all the tough times.

Later that night I get a text from him, “thanks for tonight Mary, I love you.”

Sometimes it’s good to talk about what’s bothering us, but other times the support that we really need cannot be given through words. That night I got to see both a different side of my brother and different side of myself. Something happens when you stop thinking of your own needs and put other people at the top of your list, solely for their benefit. My brother said thank you, but I was the one filled with gratitude that night; a concept that means more just giving thanks, but rather recognizing the importance and the bigger picture of our actions. Through those tears it became clear what really matters- family, compassion, thoughtfulness. It’s a new way of thinking that will carry me through the rest of my life.

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