Reality of growing up brings siblings closer together

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Lauren Puckett

landon and i
Photo provided by Lauren Puckett

Landon’s eyes are two different colors. They’re mainly blue, but in one segment of his left eye, the iris, is brown. Almost orange. But definitely not blue.
He doesn’t like people looking at his eyes. He doesn’t like anyone examining his face. He gets embarrassed; his gaze falls, and his lips twist into an awkward adolescent smile. He doesn’t talk much about himself. In fact, he doesn’t talk much at all.
But he sings. I think my brother Landon learned to sing before he learned how to speak.
I used to sit outside his preschool classroom after my day of elementary school was finished, watching him through the window. The other kids would be busy with Polly Pockets and Fischer Price fire trucks, but Landon would be singing. He would dance too, drumming against the pavement with his light-up Sketchers. He was content in his own world.
Somehow, no one understood that. The other kids got frustrated with Landon’s silence. But I understood him perfectly. Landon wasn’t a talker; he was a singer.
So, I decided I would become his translator. When people couldn’t understand what Landon was saying, or what he wanted or why he was crying, they came straight to me. When he was frustrated, when he couldn’t explain himself, he glanced at me. I was his savior, immediately transforming his music into words.
We continued like this for years. Landon and I could read each other. He knew when my inspiration was dry and my heart was aching. I knew when his energy was dying and his morale was crumbling. Everything made sense to us. We were united.
Then, somewhere along the way, I stopped listening. Landon started junior high school, and suddenly, puberty claimed his innocence. He closed up, diving into Youtube, memes and “The Hobbit,” clawing at any available escape from adolescence. He closed his bright blue eyes to the world.
I got tired. I got exasperated. I told him to “deal with it,” and I left him alone. The doors to our bedrooms, set across the hallway from one another, were slowly closed.
They didn’t reopen until the day I came home and my mother’s head was in her hands. She’d received a call from Landon’s school.
A pair of boys had ganged up on him, calling him a wuss, calling him dumb, calling him gay. It was in his Performing Arts class, a place that was supposed to be his serenity. They teased him because he liked singing. He took music seriously and that made him an object of ridicule.
He wasn’t frustrated or upset when he came home that night. It was almost as if he’d forgotten the whole incident. But I could see behind his quiet resolve that he was shaken. He’d only seen bullying in TV shows and movies — now he’d experienced it. And he was hurt. He was badly hurt.
I went to bed that night drowning in emotions. I was livid. I was exhausted. I was sad beyond comprehension. I was disappointed in myself. I’d forgotten my job — I’d forgotten I was supposed to be Landon’s support beam, his role model. I was supposed to be the one who understood.
I was supposed to be his translator, and I’d forgotten the language he spoke.
But, being the kind spirit he is, Landon taught me again. We talked for hours. I helped him with his music, and he asked me questions about the world.
He asked me why God allowed cruelty. He asked me why we were allowed to have Christmas, when halfway across the world, children were dying. He asked me why some people truly cared and others were just “nice.” He asked me if I would still visit often when I left for college. And, truthfully, I didn’t know the answer to any of his questions. I was terribly aware of my own ignorance.
But I held his hand, and I listened to him talk, and I didn’t tease him when his throat got tight. I allowed him to be emotional. For once, he was entirely honest and entirely open, meeting my gaze with those bright blue eyes. I was there for him again, just as I once was.
In these last few months before college, I’m showing Landon all I can. I’m showing him how to flirt with the cute girls in his science class. I’m showing him how to open a door for a lady because “that’s the gentlemanly thing to do.” I’m showing him how to talk sports because even nerds should know the difference between Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
But, most of all, I’m learning. I’m learning how to be an affectionate sister, an attentive advisor and a best friend. And, I suppose, I’m learning to say goodbye.
So when the day finally comes and I load my black SUV with moving boxes and picture frames, I won’t be prepared, but I’ll be ready. Because I’ll have a CD inserted in the stereo — a recorded album of the songs Landon’s created over the years. And I’ll listen to him sing, and I’ll sing along with him, and I think we’ll just stay like that forever. Apart, yes. But united.
We never leave each other’s sides. When you love someone that much, when you understand each other without having to speak, then there is nothing that can keep you apart. The anger and sadness of reality can’t seep in through my skin. No junior high drama, no college stress, no new life can change what Landon and I have always been: kindred souls. Kindred souls don’t break.
And as I drive off, maybe I’ll glance into the rearview mirror, and I’ll see my face reflected back at me. I’ll smile and remember what countless people have told me over the years: Landon and I have the same bright blue eyes.
By Lauren Puckett