She brought you home, swaddled against the biting cold, and laid you in the middle of the double bed. You slept there, wrapped up like the most unassuming gift - my brother. I felt expanded and light with sheer happiness; I felt as if I should hold my breath in awe. I slipped in every few minutes to watch your tiny chest rise and fall, to be sure you were alive and well.
Your head was dusted with the faintest blond fuzz. You smelt like warmth and comfort. I slipped my index finger into your curled-up hand, and you gripped on tightly. In my eight-year-old innocence, I believed this reflex hold meant you wanted me there. I stayed a long time, hunched over the bed awkwardly. I began right then to understand unconditional love; the ferocious and protective love I would have for you then and have to this day.
You have grown and gone now, far from here. You don't need my protection or care; you have a family yourself. You are no longer the chubby blond baby; you have grown beyond the shyly smiling, amiable small boy; you are stronger and more confident than the laughing, gangly teen. You are an adoring husband, a besotted father, and a military man who has been promoted quickly through the ranks. People like you; they are drawn to your understated leadership, your quiet assertion and wisdom. You are a good man.
Soon you will head into a volatile battle zone for several months. I know you are keen to play a part and to apply your years of training, and I am proud of you for your skill and courage. But fear clots in my throat and my stomach aches. And when I touch the soft blond head of my son as he sleeps, I think of you, my faraway brother, and my cheeks are wet.
Stay safe, be careful. Tell your enemies to beware your big sister.
Know that the delight I felt when first we met is undiminished.