One of my brothers is going to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle. This is not the first time he's done something like this. Years ago, after a series of unfortunate life events, he decided to check out and go explore the world by bicycle, flying to Iceland, then to England and making his way almost exclusively by bicycle down to and through Africa.
This time, his plan is to fly to Lisbon, Portugal, then bike to Labrador, Canada. Sounds crazy, right? But if anyone can do it my brother can, and he might be the only one to do so (by bike, at least). I am less worried about his safety than I would be if he hadn't done his previous trip. I do still worry about freak accidents which might happen, but he is strong and fit and smart and kind, so I worry less about people or even about the weather he will encounter in the year and a half in which he's planning to be gone. I trust that he will find amazing and helpful people along this journey, as he did on his last one. People who want to help him, who feed and shelter him because they can and they want to help a total stranger. We tend to hear only the bad stories, the ones of people who were thrown in jail in a foreign country or captured by pirates or terrorists. I think of the man in Germany who gave my brother a place to stay, just because they were both cyclists and this guy wanted to hear more about his trip. I think of the people who shared food with him, or gave him directions, or who just wished him well. No matter what we hear, those people far outnumber the people who are dangerous, even in dangerous places.
I had to wonder, then, if I'm less worried about his safety this time, why is it hitting me harder to say goodbye? Why does this seem more wrenching? It wasn't until last night that I realized why: last time he left, I was not around myself. I was living in Fairbanks, far away from him. I knew that I wouldn't see him when I came home for Christmas that year, but other than that it didn't affect me much. Sending an email he'd read in France isn't much different from sending one he'd read in Seattle.
This time, I'm used to having my brother around once more. We go for bike rides with him, he comes over for dinner and football on Sundays. We hang out, because we're not just siblings. We are friends. The realization that I've finally gotten my brother back in my life on a regular basis makes it that much harder to say goodbye. Even knowing that I can text and email whenever I want doesn't help much with this parting. I am going to miss my brother a crazy amount.
I get to go visit him at some point, probably October. Either in Mongolia or Russia, he will need someone to bring him a fat tire bicycle and some warmer winter gear. I volunteered to do so, and I'm looking forward to the adventure. I am already planning the care package I will bring to him. At the moment it is: butter, peanut butter, coconut oil, chocolate bars, and one Mountain Dew. They're heavy items, but they will help him survive the cold and bring a little taste of home to him, making MREs in the wilderness a bit more pleasant.
Dravis, as he prefers to call himself online, is the sibling I'm closest to. I feel the need to clarify that I don't love him more than the others, but Dravis and I do seem to just get each other, while my eldest and younger brothers understand each other better. Perhaps being the middle children helped create a bond? I don't know. But we are all friends and thankfully, we're all together for the holiday right now. We got a big family picture, and I'm sure we'll get another when Dravis comes home to show the changes (which will hopefully mostly be in the little ones). We get to hang out and talk and laugh as siblings do, playing games and teasing each other, playing with the two daughters/nieces.
We had a going away ice cream social last night with many friends. I was glad to see that so many people managed to come out, despite the holiday and family obligations. I know a few people really, really wanted to be there but couldn't because they were out of town, but the crowd was still quite large. It was a fun party, the kind of sendoff you want for someone special in your life going on to a new adventure.
Tonight is the last night of family togetherness for quite some time. One brother goes home tomorrow, and Dravis leaves on Tuesday. I know this won't be the last time we're together, but it is momentous and special. This time together will end up being one of those memories I turn back to when I'm feeling down, when I'm missing my brother. And then I will send him an email, and remind myself how small the world is. He is never that far from me, even if it feels like he is.