Right now I sit here surrounded by hundreds of people and below I look at you in your royal blue cap and gown. Around your neck drape cords to resemble the academic achievements you have spent hours earning. To my left sits mom. Tears fill her eyes as she sits with a bittersweet smile on her face. In front of me is dad. He is quiet and focused on the speech your superintendent is giving. To my right is Joey- watching videos of LeBron’s dunk and Steph’s full-court shot.
Over the years I have spent a lot of hours watching you live your life. From dive meets, to award banquets, to talent shows, to school musicals- I’ve sat through it all. And during all of those events, my mind was typically concentrated on where we were going for dinner afterwards or when I could charge my phone. But today my mind and heart are somewhere much different.
On April, 2nd 1998, at age 2, I was given my best friend. I didn’t have a choice- you were given to me. I was forced to play with you. I was forced to share mom and dad’s attention with you. I was forced to listen to you cry and beg for apple juice every second of each day. And for the next few years, I continued to be stuck with you by my side. Literally- mom strapped us into our car seats and there I sat locked in place- right next to you. I did not like having to be your friend. Whether you refused to let me dress you in my dance costumes or whether you had just finished beating the shit out of me with our game cube controllers- I did not like you.
When I was 11 and you were 9, we left. We left the town we knew and the friends we adored. We left Poppy. We left it all and together we rode 600 miles to a new place we were forced to call home. You and I were the new kids. We were alone- but we were alone together. You knew no one and neither did I. We had no friends at school and no clue where to play. But we had each other. Day after day I turned to you to fill the empty holes I had and together we figured out how to make being the new kids not so bad. We leaned on each other.
This was when the tables turned. Being your friend was not so bad and spending time with you was actually better than being alone. From Raleigh, North Carolina on, turning to you was instinctual.
Together we were forced to start over again, again. At 14 and 16 years old, we were the new kids. And again, we felt the sadness and we feared the unknown. We lacked the friendships the kids around us spent years creating. But again, I had you. You stuck up for me when I couldn’t stick up for myself. Even when you were just as new and clueless as me, it was you who eased my sadness and kept me optimistic. You stayed strong for us.
Through everything our family has gone through, you and I have done it together. And as I sit here at your graduation, I have tears in my eyes. There is no life challenge I wish would have never taken place- for those are what created a bond with you that can never be compared. There is no one I am more proud of than you. I look up to you and I strive to be half the person you are. While moving and starting our lives in different places is something you and I have done over and over again, for the first time, we are not doing it together. Although I would do anything to have just one more year with you trapped under my same roof, go to California and begin the start of a journey you so well deserve.
In a world with so many people, I wouldn’t pick anyone else to be my best friend. Thanks, Mom and Dad. You gave me one hell of a brother.
Love you, Ell