HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SCOTT

Today is my baby brother’s birthday. I say baby lightly because Scott turns 48 today. But as his sister, ten years his senior, I’ll always have that special little brother place in my heart for him.
I vividly remember the spring morning when Scott came into the world. In 1961, visiting privileges at our small Midwest hospital’s maternity ward were limited to adults. So my older brother and I and my younger brother stood below the second floor window and watched with awe as Dad proudly held up the small, blanketed bundle for us to see.

When Dad and Mom brought this tiny baby home to live with us, we were enthralled by the new addition to our family. This was a dream come true for me– my own baby brother to help care for. I learned to change diapers, take him for walks in the baby buggy, and feed him oatmeal and mashed bananas, making sure more of the mash got into his mouth than on his face and clothes.

Scott was adorable. His bright brown eyes sparkled with a bit of mischief and he smiled readily when we cooed or tickled him. He delighted us with his child-like wonder and curiosity about everything.

Time has a way of slipping by at almost lightning speed. I married Randy, my high school sweetheart, (who also shares Scott’s birthday) when I was nineteen, and we moved several hundred miles away. Of course there were vacations and homecomings when we spent time together, but our ten year age difference made it more difficult to stay in touch. When Scott had his tenth birthday, Randy and I had our own baby. When he entered his teens, I lived halfway around the world where Randy was stationed on Okinawa with the Air Force.

It’s hard to know what went wrong, and the questions gnaw at my parents and us siblings as we look back. Scott chose a path all too common for many adolescents. He bucked our parents’ authority and experimented with alcohol and drugs. Somehow you think, this too shall pass. He’ll find his way. He’s still so young. A lot of guys his age are doing this.

But years pass and choices inevitably bring consequences. Heartbreaking ones. Repeated drug use damages the brain and renders a person disabled, unable to earn a living. Homelessness results and my parents and I and other siblings have agonized over how to help. Could we have done something different? Was there an undetected mental illness? If only we had tried harder to find help or not tried so hard to force Scott to get help. The possibilities are endless and exhausting to consider.

One by one we’ve come to the conclusion that we must let go. None of us has the power to change Scott. As I’ve learned through my own painful experience in dealing with a loved one’s addiction, that though I can’t make someone desire to change, God can. I will step out of the way and allow him to do what is necessary.

Letting go doesn’t mean we stop loving Scott with callous indifference to his circumstances. Instead, letting go is rooted in faith. Surrendering my precious brother means trusting God enough to believe that the One who created him loves him more than I could even imagine. Letting go feels risky, but it is the path to finding acceptance and peace in uncertain circumstances.

On this beautiful May morning with lilacs bursting into bloom and our native balsam root “sunflowers” dotting the green hillsides, I pause to thank God for the gift of life for Scott. Even though I’m not able to call him and tell him, I pray that the Lord, our mighty God, will whisper his love to Scott more profoundly than I ever could.

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