Learning to lean on my brother

One student shares how her brother has become a strong male figure in her life.

Mykel Greene (left), then 7 years old, and her younger brother Michael Greene, then 3 years old, poses for a photo in their Upper Darby home in 2004. | MYKEL GREENE / COURTESY

The night my relationship ended, I cried while I dialed my younger brother Michael’s number.

I knew he was fast asleep for school the next day, but I was nervous to walk home alone from the train station. His answer was instant, and within minutes, he arrived at the 69th street terminal all the while remaining on the phone.

When he saw me, he all but threw his bike on the ground and embraced me. Wiping snot all over his track jacket, we walked home in silence holding hands. He knew that I needed him to listen without responding.

I realized then that my younger brother was no longer a little boy, he was a young man. 

As an older sister, I was used to taking on all of the responsibility for my brother.

I have to be available at all hours of the night to be his chauffeur for marching and jazz band rehearsals and performances. I have to be ready to hear about his whole day from the time he wakes up to the time he’s about to go to sleep. I have to be ready for him to clobber me at any moment because he wants to hug “my Mykie.”

My brother is 17, four years younger than me. Growing up, he was always superglued to me. Wherever I was, he would be, too. Wherever I was going, he’d beg to come.

It was around the time he started high school that he began to change. The babyface was gone and the peach fuzz began to sprout from his chin. Michael went from being six inches shorter than me to almost four inches taller. His voice deepened, though it’s still far away from being a baritone.

As he cultivated more life experiences, like being on the track and field team and in a relationship, Michael became my rock to lean on. I never thought he’d ever be capable of being my support system because I always saw him as my baby brother. He was always going to need guidance and therefore would never be able to give it.

The night I got my heart broken, Michael proved me wrong. I thanked him for jumping up out of bed to come get me, and for listening to me rant over and over about how life sucked and how I’d never find love again. Later on, Michael told me that I could always come to him to rant about anything, even if he didn’t understand a lick of what I was saying.

Growing up, I bossed him around and wrestled with him. At every opportunity, I exerted my big sister power over him. Whenever he retaliated, I played the “You can’t hit a girl” card that our parents always fell for, even if I initiated the brawl.

Our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. While the bickering is just as intense, there is a new element to it. I can go to him about anything, and he can come to me ⁠— just as he’s always done.

Watching Michael grow into the young man he is today is a blessing. After he watches me receive my bachelor’s degrees at the end of this year, I will be watching him get his high school diploma from my alma mater in June. 

Yesterday, he was in kindergarten. Today, I’m helping him apply for college.

He’s always moving forward and perhaps that’s the runner in him. He motivates me to be the best version of myself and that gives me the strength to get through my struggles.

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