Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My (Other) Brother

I remember the way he crawled into my lap, the blackness of his hair and eyes, the beautiful brown of his baby skin. My brother, Todd, who came across the ocean to be my baby brother and my parents' son. My brother, whose origins were a mystery but whose place in our family was a revelation. I think we were on a plane the first time I got to see him, but I am not sure. I do know I had waited for so long for this little person, this boy who would be my sibling, a word for which the meaning would take years to form.

We had anticipated his arrival with paint, wall paper and crib.  How I still remember the deep red we painted the walls! Red is still one of my favorite colors to decorate with today - thank you mother. The taste of wall paper paste is fresh on my tongue.  In my four year old mind I thought I could lick the wall paper like a stamp.  Sitting alone in his empty room I waited for my baby brother who would come from so far way.

The place my brother was born, Korea, filled my mind. I could not know the intricacies of adoption. It seemed enough that adoption meant I would have another little person to share my little life with. I thought I wanted a sister, a sister named Susan.  I would not realize for a long time that my longing for a sister came from reality. I had a sister and she died at birth.  A year later my brother would come home.

 First meeting Todd, Korea, 1978

Now, as a mother I can only imagine the ache of my mother's arms for a baby, the desire that my dad had to add one to our number as we wrestled on the living room floor.  Only parents who have lost an infant can know that longing. 

Todd was never a replacement, though.  He was perfection. He was the cutest baby I had ever seen and he was ours.  Todd was chubby, stubborn, and deeply curious. We called him 'Tank' because he crawled into walls.  He had knee pads with tigers on them that Mom and Dad brought back from their trip to Korea. He cried all night from jet lag and I would sometimes sleep on the floor of his room.  I also sometimes stole his bottle just to see what the big deal was about.

We had an awesome life. My favorite memories of Todd revolve around family vacations. We would get into the big yellow van (that's a blog post waiting to happen!) at the crack of dawn while my parents packed literally everything in the entire world into our red cooler. We each had a monchichi, mine was Maggie his was Mikey, and we played for hours in the back seat. Headrests became mountains and beneath the bench seat was a cave.

When my next brother came along, with his mental handicap, our fate was sealed as The Black Sheep of the neighborhood. Sometimes it felt like everyone stared everywhere we went - because sometimes they did. People, even people at church, would ask Todd really stupid questions like, "Where are you from?"  I was fiercely protective of Todd during elementary school.  I got into more than one physical fight over name calling.

I think I liked our status as the Black Sheep.  I enjoyed being different even when it meant exclusion.

I sometimes wonder how hard that must have been for my brother, though. I wonder what hid behind his dark eyes, dark like the ocean at night. What mysterious hurts swam in the depths of my little brother's eyes.

I may never know. We have not seen my brother in 6 years. A series of events that had been in play for a very long time led to Todd choosing to leave.  I was perplexed and angry at first. Those emotions moved quickly into worry and fear.  For a while I couldn't talk about him.  More recently, I just long to know that he is loved by the people he has chosen. I want him to be fulfilled in life and pleased with the man he has become.

Today is my sweet brother's birthday. Thirty-four years ago God placed him on this earth and aimed him in the direction of our family. My dad says he always felt that he would be the father of a child from Korea, even as a very young man. I will always believe, as I believe my parents do also, that Todd was always meant to be their son, and my and Erik's brother.  I believe that knowing him, growing up with him, shaped me into the person I am today.

So, happy birthday, little brother. 

I hope you're happy, cared for, and appreciated wherever you are.

I pray that your memories are true.

I long for you to know how much you were loved, and are still loved, and to remember how deep your love for us was.

So, for today,  your special day, we remember the joker, the architect, and Star Wars fan we knew. We remember the little boy who shone with exuberance, and we celebrate the man  you are wherever you may be.  

Today is your day.  

Blow out your candles and make a wish,

And remember that you were, on September 11, 1978,  Mom and Dad's  wish-come-true.


  1. Oh sweet beautiful. I pray you will find each other someday...

  2. Wonderfully said....I sit here bawling!!

    1. Thought of you as I thought of my mom getting to hold a healthy baby after such loss, Shanna.

  3. Dang, Kara, you hit the spot with this one. I was fourteen (1957), Edward R. Murrow had a show about the Holt family in Oregon that began an adoption program after the Korean War. They had their children and a bunch of adopted Korean children sitting around the table for supper and I thought, this is what a family should be. Well, it is a bittersweet day, on his birthday. Hope never ends and prayers continue. Thanks for writing so well.

  4. Kara, this is beautiful. You made me cry. You are such a wonderful writer. I hope Todd finds his way back to you all someday.

    1. Thanks, my friend. Someday can't come soon enough!

  5. Happy birthday, Todd, wherever you are. Please know you are missed. You were my little brother, too. You were annoying. You got a thrill out of causing the girls grief. But I loved you just the same.

    1. We all got extra little brothers, didn't we. :)

  6. Words can not explain how beautiful your words are Kara and my prayers will be with you in the hope that one day you find each other again. Happy Birthday cousin and know if you read this that we love you.

  7. I, for one, thought you had the coolest family in the neighborhood. :) Sorry to hear about Todd; I hope he comes back one day...

    1. Crystal - I should have added that there were a number of families that made our family feel totally 'normal'. My memories of Meadowthorpe are all happy, nostalgic, even. I especially remember loving to get to swim in your pool! :)

  8. Kara- words cannot express how you must feel at the loss of this relationship. Sorry to hear that he is apart from your family at this time. Praying that you all find each other again. I still remember him aggravating you, Shannon and I after school when we would go to your house.
    Love reading your blog and would love to talk to you sometime about homeschooling.

    Miss the times we all had together,


  9. I have read this a number of times. Dad took that picture the first time we were able to visit with Todd in Korea. I remember it like yesterday. You are the child of my heart. We are here for yor you. love Mom.... wonderful writing daughter

  10. Kara and the Krieg Family. I am truly hopeful Todd will one day return.

    Todd if you do read this. I wish you are safe. You may have flew away but always remember, people care for your safe return.

    God Bless,

  11. Girl, this is wrenching. And still, the beauty is bright. I'll pray. You know I will.