Friday, May 24, 2013

He Did It!

In just a few days from now, as you are reading this, my little brother will be walking across the stage graduating from college. I anticipate being quite busy with family and friends celebrating him to properly mark the occasion on my little corner of the internet so I am scheduling this post for the future.  In the meantime though, lets go back in history first to see what led us to this moment....

I remember when my mother was pregnant with Matthew.  I was 6 years old, in Kindergarten and loved being an only child.  I remember not really understanding why everyone was so excited for whatever was responsible for my mother looking like she swallowed a beach ball.  I can remember looking up at the calendar in our kitchen with the date April 17th circled with one simple word, "Baby".  I had just no idea how much that word would change my life.

When Matthew finally made his appearance, I vividly remember walking into the hospital room seeing a tiny creature screaming.  I suddenly became quite frightened and was convinced the doctors had just pulled some other life force out of my mother.  This being, very Benjamin Buttonesque, a tiny old man in an infant body.  I couldn't bring myself to call him a baby, I just referred to him as "that thing".  It didn't take long to grow some affection for my little brother Matthew, never Matt.

I'm going to be honest, growing up, I didn't quite like Matthew much.  I was insanely jealous-he was my mom's favorite (who remained as such until Boyfriend entered the picture, and most recently, Baby).  My brother was also was incredibly annoying.  So much so that my friends didn't want to come over to my house because my mom didn't protect us from him, she forced me to allow him to play with us (see what I mean about her favorite?).  

It wasn't all bad though.  We spent our summers playing outside, swimming in Duck Creek, digging through our dad's bathroom for change so we could walk to the McDonalds to get french fries and visiting Boston with our family.  When we did start fighting though, my mom would put us in a chair together and force us to hold hands until we could come to amicable terms.  Most often we just decided that our mother was crazy so that we could complete our cruel and unusual punishment, but now I see the wisdom in my mother-teaching us on how to become a team and work together.

When Matthew turned five, my mother had another moment of enlightenment and enrolled both of us in judo.  While I absolutely hated every single moment that I was participating and tried every excuse to stop, Matthew flourished in the sport.  Not only was he doing well, he was winning left and right.  He quickly became the kid that people would talk about the tournaments, "Oh did you hear Matthew is here?!  Well there goes my gold!"

I loved going to his tournaments.  Not only did I get to check out cute boys without their shirts on, I loved getting down on the mat screaming for him to kick whatever kid's butt. I would scream the loudest and on the occasion of a loss, feel the heartbreak the most.  I was always as proud of him as any mother could be, and that is how I often viewed myself-a second mother to him. 

When I graduated high school, I visited one of my aunts that summer before departing to college and I can remember a conversation that I had for her out of fear for my brother.  My father was very ill and I was just so worried for what was going to happen when I was gone.  I probably gave myself too much credit, but I always saw myself as the one that kept the peace in the family (when I wasn't the one causing the mayhem) and I was petrified what life would be like for him without me there.

Just a short time after I left for home, our father's sickness brought him to the hospital for one last visit where ultimately he would pass.  Matthew and my mother were out of the country supporting Matthew in a competition for judo so I was there to assist with my dad.  When he was lucid, all my father would talk about was his son and how proud of him he was.  He would brag to anyone who would listen, the doctors, nurses, the janitors about how his son was representing the USA in the Pan American Junior Olympics.  

I think my father's passing was when I personally started to grow.  As I mentioned, Matthew was my mom's favorite and I was my dad's.  I think my mom had to compensate for Matthew so I always felt that I had to fight for the attention, but with my dad gone, I no longer had to do so.  I also no longer had the guilt that my dad treated me better.  Matthew never seemed to show resentment towards me that I was the favorite of our father, but I couldn't bear the weight.  

Matthew left for college five years ago to pursue his dreams in going to the Olympics by training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  The day he and my mother left to make the 12 hour drive, I remember hugging him goodbye and choking back tears.  Like any good second mother, I wasn't ready for my baby brother to leave the nest.  

We spoke often, he would tell me of his crazy antics and I would have panic attacks thinking of his wild parties (I'm going to have to have a Xanex drip when my actual child goes to college).  He told me stories of his intense training at the OTC and how much he was learning in school.  I literally heard him mature as we spoke on the phone and in turn, our relationship started to grow from siblings to friends.

When I was pregnant with Baby I knew he would have a special bond with her, but didn't realize how much she would mean to him.  And not just because he uses her to pick up girls at the mall-he wants to spend as much time as possible with her.  Baby adores her uncle and talks about him on a nightly basis.

Recently, Matthew had to call me and tell me due to one too many concussions, it was finally time to hang up his judo gi.  I shed tears of heartbreak over the phone with him, knowing that the loss of his dream was the hardest thing he will have to work through.  It wasn't an easy choice for him, but the actual risk he is putting his life at made the choice for him.

And that brings us back to today, the day that his family are all sitting proudly beaming watching him walk across that stage.  Knowing him, he won't just walk-I am sure he will pull some stunt and try to make people laugh because that is who he is-an entertainer.  Matthew always wants people to be happy around him, even if it is putting on a brave face when he isn't feeling confident.

I know he is scared for what is to come.  Just as every one of his fellow classmates.  I have tried to instill some big sisterly wisdom, he is about to enter one of the best times of his life.  He has just accomplished something that only a small percentage achieve.  He has literally his entire life in front of him, a fresh and exciting clean slate.

He is going to be successful in life.  Sure he might have to live with his mom for a bit (God help him), but he has the opportunity to reinvent himself starting now.  He is no longer defined by judo, and while I know he finds this terrifying, I hope he is soon able to see exactly how liberating it is.  

I am so excited to see what he decides to do with his life and selfishly, I am happy he is coming home.  I miss him when he isn't physically close.  I miss having my little brother to hang out with, one of my best friends.  He is still annoying, but now my mom doesn't even have to force me to let him hang out, I invite him myself.  And above all, having another (free) babysitter in town never hurts!

Congratulations Matthew Cray.  We are so, so proud of you and I know that Dad is somewhere creeping on you saying, "You finally did that thing over whatcmacallit across the thingambobby!"


  1. How sweet, brought tears to my eyes. I love you guys & congrats again to Matthew!


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