When I was about 6 or 7 John went away to college; I was distraught the night before he left. It was truly the first time I had ever experienced loss, and I didn't know, at all, how to process it. But like the amazing brother he is John was the only one capable of cheering me up the day he left, and I still felt close to him when he was in Delaware. He wrote me letters and called every week, always making sure that he stayed on the phone long enough to talk to both of my parents and me, his little buddy. While his leaving for college was a challenge in those early years, it ended up being a blessing when he graduated. He moved home for a few years afterwards, and at that point my sister and brother Dennis were both in college themselves, and Don had married. So for a few years it was just John and I, and I had the benefit of our childhood relationship on an adolescent scale. He remained my buddy: he helped me study for tests, took me to movies, drove me around when I needed a ride, and partnered with me in an attempt to solve Donkey Kong Country (our frustration with the last board likely took years off of our lives).
Yesterday I saw a glimpse of who John is in what is ultimately one of his best roles-- as a father. We were at his daughters' birthday party. Erin became upset during the singing of Happy Birthday-- a typical 5 year old overwhelmed by the sudden, fixed attention. I was helping with the cake preparation, so I was able to witness John's calming influence. He simply took her off to the side, hugged her, and explained very calmly how it was totally fine how she was feeling-- that lots of people don't like to be the center of attention, and that it's a really normal response. Erin was locked into his advice, and quickly brightened. In that moment I realized this is exactly who John is: a reliable, trustworthy, loving man-- one who cares for his daughters, wife Stacie, family, friends, and physical therapy patients deeply. He's always been there for me-- from those early days until now-- and I am so thankful that I have him as my brother, my buddy.