The Boy of Fall: An Appreciation for the Knucklehead I Call Brother

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The lights are bright across the field. The grass makes a soft crunch under your cleats. The sound of your friends and family in the stands is muffled by the sound of blood rushing as you look at your opponent for the night. The feeling of your helmet sliding down your face makes this real. With teeth and fists clenched, your body anticipates the game and adrenaline starts flowing. The game clock starts and the first play sounds. It’s time!

This is what I saw from the stands for 9 years of my life. I wasn’t watching a professional or collegiate game. Instead I was watching something much more special. I was watching a scared little 12-year-old run down the field with too big pants, his first catch tucked under his arm and fear on his face. I was watching a motivated 14-year-old catch every ball I tossed his way as he engraved plays in his head over crimson colored leaves. I was watching an excited 16-year-old run his first punt return with a speed that shocked the people around him. Over everything, I was watching the one person who gave me hope because he would never give up. I was watching my little brother grow into a man before my eyes.

I admit that years ago, I envied my brother because he could play the game that made my heart pound so hard in my chest. I settled with childish games of two hand touch with friends and flag football in P.E., but I relished in playing with my brother because he never held back. To him, I was his equal and in some way, I feel as if I made him stronger this way. Over the years, my envy turned into pride. Watching my brother go from the small, unsure child whose face showed his ever emotion to a man who handled the field as his own, gave me joy. I wasn’t alone either. My mother and father were there with me as his biggest fans. When he scored, we screamed. When he injured himself, we felt his pain. When he was cheated of a touchdown, we were yelling louder than the team was. Yet I feel as though I put in overtime. I was the one who heard his late night dreams of fame. I was the one who saw him at his weakest when he didn’t think he could do it. I was the one who caught the looks of dejection when others put him down. Its not easy to push someone back up again but if you want them to succeed, you put your heart in it.

For now, the golden years of football are gone and life is setting in. We are both adults living in a world with a harsh reality. My dreams were stifled around my 18th birthday, only to be replaced with a somewhat realistic mindset. My brother on the other hand, still dreams big. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing since he still believes in everything he ever dreamed and holds true to his heart. This also keeps him light in a world that gets increasingly dark for us. Yet, it curses him since he refuses to see the truth in certain thing. He sees the one piece of the puzzle that fits him, but not the whole finished product. This aggravates me greatly, but I wouldn’t change this about him for the world as it is him. He is the dreamer, schemer and believer and I am the one who clings to reality and actuality. We’re different people and that works for us.

This post may seem random, but it has a purpose. Over the last few weeks, I have mulled over the different people in my life and how they affect me. During this, it came to my attention that my brother was the one who pulled the strongest emotion from me, whether it be our sibling affection or our angry fights that come out of nowhere. My brother knows that there are some things he does that makes me want to hit him, but there are also moments when I want to hug him so that he knows his sister is proud of him. We drive each other nuts to the point where we can’t be in the same room for lengths of time, but separation hurts the most. You can’t grow up with your own blood and not feel a pang when they’re gone for too long.

As I said before, we have both grown up now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still remember. I may be 24 and about to graduate and he may be 21 and getting a feel for the adult life, but he will always be a boy of fall to me and himself. That’s not something you let go of fully and I don’t think he ever should.

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