I’ve been blessed by a fantastic family. I love my parents, and I adore my two siblings. One has flown overseas multiple times for missions work, and the other has found a natural niche in youth ministry. They are my younger siblings, and they are my heroes.
I am the oldest Zuniga kid (adult?), and for 26 years onward I have enjoyed the many perks of coming first: of graduating high school first and then college first, of owning a vehicle first, and of moving out first.
As childhood and adolescence have morphed into something resembling adulthood, however, I have grown weary of being the first root in this family tree. In recent years, I have often longed to be wedged somewhere in the middle or even the youngest of all.
I have yearned for an older brother.
I went to the gym last night, not unlike any other Monday evening. I spent 45 minutes pumping pedals on a stationary bike more for the mental release than any physical gain, and I was occasionally watching the Monday Night Football game directly above me.
As I climbed a steep “alpine pass,” I glanced up at the silent screen and caught only 5 or 10 seconds of a commercial that might as well have turned off all the lights in the place and froze every other exerciser mid-stride, mid-pump while the muted commercial suddenly blared with audible words and magical music and unhinged emotion.
I wanted to cry on the bike.
I started to cry on the bike.
It was a Christmas commercial for DICK’s Sporting Goods, and watching the extended version on my laptop ruined me last night:
My heart grew heavier and my eyes moister as the simple story of two baseball-loving brothers progressed. The thing was just 91 seconds and yet it might as well have been a full-length movie.
A full-length life.
When I look back on my childhood, I can point to many hard moments or non-moments of loss. A cross-country move here, a dead dog there.
One of the hardest things I have had to reckon with in recent years and even still at 26 is that I never had any close male friends growing up. In fact, I never really experienced the elusive notion of such a friendship until after I turned 22.
And yet where friendships may fail, family is forever.
I realize this statement might elicit deep winces and aches and groans from some of you reading, but for me, this is my blessed truth. Death aside, I cannot imagine a scenario where my family will not stand with me. I am indeed blessed; yes, I am.
And yet sometimes, some nights, I look back on my lonely male-deprived childhood and more than anything, I yearn for some supernatural family reshuffling.
I want an older brother. For all the joys of being “first,” I find myself desperately longing for another’s footsteps to follow rather than this long blank stretch of sand before me.
An older brother to hold my hand and walk me across the street.
An older brother to bother to drive me places as he eventually agrees and I feel important in the passenger seat beside him.
An older brother to spy on when he brings a date over and they watch a movie in the living room.
An older brother to tussle with and lose to, time after time, only to gradually gain on him with age and win some matches of my own.
An older brother for advice on college and relationships and messy struggles I feel too awkward and ashamed approaching anyone else about.
An older brother to hug and be held by and an older brother to cry into when I feel so outcast and unlovable among men.
An older brother to tell me everything will be okay.
An older brother to encourage me to follow through with little league even though I was too terrified and in tears before I even reached the clubhouse.
An older brother to wake me up and play catch with on Christmas morning as our parents watch from the warmth of a living room.