If you were to ask me (or even if you didn’t, we younger siblings love to talk) who the most important, most admirable man in my life is, my answer for you is instant and unconsidered: my older brother.
While my father and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant might come in a close, tied second, the bond one feels with their sibling is incomparable, and the bond a sister feels with an older brother is more unique still.
All of my favourite memories from childhood took place with my brother. The most vivid visions that remain from my past are the simplest, yet ones I cherish most: jumping on the couch to Eric Clapton, sword-fighting with rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, accidentally flipping our canoe at the cottage, stealing each other’s leftovers from the fridge (if you have a sibling, you know this is the most heinous, condemnable offense one can ever commit.)
And as I got older, my brother became not just my companion in mischief and the tattler who got me in trouble when I did something questionable (always). He wasn’t just my torturer who forced me to eat peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches (seriously, what kind of sadist—?) He became my protector: if I got too out of hand at high school at party, he made sure I got home. If boys did anything to hurt me, he was there to instill fear into their souls. If we endured familial issues, we suffered them together. My brother was my constant.
This stereotype of the older brother is one well cemented: he represents to his sister the nuisance, the martyr, the jester, and most importantly, the protector. But eventually, despite this pre-prescribed family dynamic, my brother one day became the one who needed me.
A few years ago, on the rainiest day of that Canadian summer, my brother was in a catastrophic car accident. He was fatally injured, having actually died on the scene. After being revived by paramedics, he was flown to the closest hospital specializing in brain injury. The brain damage he suffered was medically the most severe a person can have. For two weeks, he remained in a coma and was expected to remain in a catatonic state if he woke.
From the second I heard of that accident, mentally, my relationship with my brother changed. For once in our lives, I had to be the strong one for him. For two weeks, I drove an hour every day to sit by his side and hope that he’d awaken. And eventually, against all medical prediction, he did.
His recovery was literally miraculous: he relearned to walk, talk, and function to an unprecedented level of revival. And I was there for him literally every step of the way, visiting him daily as he became physically and cognitively stronger.
Ever since that experience, for me, our dynamic is no longer just he as the protector, me as the dependent. While I still might need him to fend off creepy men in bars, bait the worm on my fishing hook, and tell me when I need to get my sh*t together, I’ve realised that the brother/sister dynamic does not have to be reliant on the patriarchal perception that the brother must always defend the sister. Sometimes, we have to be the ones who protect them too.