By Andy Christian Castillo
Yesterday, I pulled my Jeep down the crunching driveway of the solid blue house on Pine Brook Curve and pushed open the familiar door of my childhood to find just one brother sitting at the family table.
I wasn’t met with screaming, or laughter, or crying, or arguing, or even a smile, when I kicked off my shoes and tossed my keys onto a shelf; instead, an eery silence pervaded over the worn out linoleum floors, hugged the dented walls, and whispered through cluttered rooms, where forgotten toys collected dust and children’s books hid on sagging shelves.
No memories sprang to mind from the distant past to shake off the dust; no loving embrace or respectful handshake was offered in greeting to disrupt the shocking silence.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, and be compassionate and humble.
When I sat down at the table and greeted my younger brother Josh, who had just returned home from a traveling in Europe for a few months, it felt like neither of us had ever left the old house.
Sitting in silence, I realized I hadn’t even missed him while he was gone; but at the same time, I missed him terribly in that moment.
At some point before I arrived, he had walked through the door the same way I had; kicked off his shoes the same way I had; tossed his keys and sat down like time hadn’t changed: the same way I had.
What do you do when you wake up and find that your best friends are gone? And what do you do when your realize that the boys who shared your tears, heartache, pain, and joy for your entire mortal existence have lost you as well?
For more than 20 years of life I went to sleep in a roomful of boys — brothers with whom I ate, played, fought, studied, laughed, cried, pinched, bit, hit, and hugged, for my entire life. Today, I wake up alone; make breakfast alone; go to work alone, and come back home, alone.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.
Some are still just down the road, a phone call away: Sam lives in Sunderland, a town over; Josh, Joel, Joseph and Matt are still in Northampton. But others are further: Peter and Jon are in Texas, all the way across the country.
I have a beautiful girlfriend whom I love dearly, and great friends to keep me company, but no relationship will ever be the same as the bond I have with my brothers. Not even my parents, who’ve been there every step of the way, can understand the shared experiences I have with Pete, Jon, Josh, Sam, Joel, Joseph and Matt. Even the smallest of interactions with any one of them is loaded with a lifetime of memories.
Those memories hit me in nostalgic waves at times; tackle me in a moment of sadness: my brothers and I shared a lot of good years sitting around the lego pile creating things (years which can’t be conjured forth again).
When I saw Josh sitting at the table, I reverted to 10-year-old me, and treated him how that younger me would have treated his little brother. And I’m sure he did the same, without even thinking about it. We exchanged hellos: I asked how Europe was, he explained what he did, and then, we both fell into whatever it was we were doing. There weren’t any tears shed or dramatic storytelling, just an acknowledgement and appreciation of physical presence, and an understanding of mutual respect.
That’s the way it has always been with my brothers, and I’m sure that’s the way it’ll always be.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
When it came time to leave the family roost, none of us boys expressed a particularly excessive amount of emotion.
Pete’s departure was the most notable, because he was the first to exit the Castillo nest. Jon’s wasn’t as dramatic, but we still piled into the family van and trekked out to see him graduate basic training. Mine was barely noticed, even by me (I think because I wanted to escape so badly). Josh made a bit more of a splash because he’s tall and people notice when he’s not around. Sam slipped out overnight without anyone realizing he was leaving.
The day after seeing Josh, while sitting at home alone in my apartment, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more excited to see him, and he, to see me. It’s not that we don’t love or care for each other; on the contrary, I deeply care about every one of my brothers, and would gladly give my life for their safety and happiness.
Thinking over the deep and complex relationships I have with each one of my brothers, I realized that maybe it’s because when I see them it feels like we never grew up. Or, maybe it’s because we never learned how to be apart.
At times, I feel like I should feel more emotions when I see them; but then I realize I don’t because I know each one so well, that I don’t have to.