Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

We Talked about Love, but We Used Hawk Words

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

We Talked about Love, but We Used Hawk Words

Article excerpt

The last time I saw my brother Kevin in the flesh was three years ago, in his den, in the evening, just before summer began. We sat with our legs sprawled out and talked of hawks and love and pain and Mom and beaches and mathematics and Dad and college and his children and mine and our patient, mysterious wives and books and basketball and grace and pain and then hawks again.

We were both major, serious, intent raptor guys, delighted to try to discern the difference between, say, a kestrel and a jay, which are about the same size, although one can dismember a mouse in seconds and the other would faint dead away if dismemberment was on the syllabus.

Both of us would happily have studied hawks for the rest of our lives, but the problem was that his life was ending soon, and this was the last evening we would have to talk about love and hawks, and we knew this, so we talked about hawks and love.

In my experience, brothers don't often talk bluntly about love, even if you do love each other inarticulately and thoroughly and confusedly, because it's awkward to talk about love that's not romantic. Everyone chatters and sings and gibbers about romantic love, and how it starts and ends and waxes and wanes, but we hardly ever talk about all the other kinds of love, which include affection and respect and reverence, and also brothering, which is rough and complicated.

Brothers start out in competition and some never stop. Brothers are like trees that start out adjacent but have to grow apart to eat enough light. Brothers worship each other and break each other's noses, and adore each other and steal from each other, and detest each other even as they sprint to defend each other. It's very confusing.

If you are very lucky you eventually get to be the same age as your brother or brothers. Eventually the differences between and among you erode and dissolve and the love is left in craggy outcrops where you can sit together with your legs sprawled out. …

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