Siblings Day: How My Brother Taught Me to Say ‘I Love You’

When I think of Siblings Day, I always think about this story, and what my brother taught me about saying “I love you” to the people you care about. When I was younger, it was a difficult phrase for me. I rarely said it to anyone, even to my family. The words always got stuck on my tongue, and I especially never said it to my younger brother. I wasn’t convinced that I liked the guy until our late teens, when I went off to college and I found myself missing the little brat more than I thought possible.

When my brother decided to join the Marines and move to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, I found myself really conscious of his absence. We’d become friends in those few short years, and I was the first to hug him when we arrived for his boot camp graduation.

But I still couldn’t say it. I certainly felt it, but I couldn’t get the words out. It wasn’t until my brother went overseas to Afghanistan that things began to change.

Breaking the Barrier

The unknown can be a scary thing, especially when your little brother is going off to a war zone where anything can happen. I wrote him letters about what was going on back home, but for the first few weeks, we didn’t hear anything from him. After that, we received one or two letters from him in return, usually several weeks later.

Finally, one day he managed to get a call through. I hadn’t heard his voice in a long time. I don’t really remember what we talked about; I just know that the conversation wasn’t nearly long enough. But just as he was going to leave, he said the words that I had always struggled with: “I love you, sis.”

Queue the tear cascade.

“I love you too, bro,” I managed to croak back. It was the first time that we’d really said it without silly accents or pairing it with an insult. How do you not say it when your little brother might be shot at the very next day?

I received a few more phone calls during the seven months that he was deployed. Every time, we closed our conversations with the same sincere sentiment. Slowly, it became a little easier, the delivery becoming smoother each time.

Sharing the Love

It took a little while, but I started saying it to my parents, too. Then, I started telling my friends. I even began to include my extended family members. Every time I spoke, texted, or emailed those three magic words, it grew easier.

These days, the discomfort is all but gone. My brother is home now and has been for several years. We still say it to each other whenever we’re about to part ways. I have learned from his example that you can never express how much you care too often, especially when you just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Happy Siblings Day, Dustin. Love you, bro.

Image source: Krista Viar