I received a hug for Christmas this year. Technically, it’s an Irish Cable Pattern Pocket Shawl from Aran Crafts – Ireland. But I don’t call it that. I call it my Craig hug. Craig is my oldest brother and we bookend the five children in my family with me being the youngest. He was 11 years old when I was born and I've never stopped looking up to him.
We’re polar opposites in a lot of ways. He’s an athlete and I am anything but. He’s always been a risk taker while I've walked the safe pathway. He’s a big, universe type of thinker whereas my thoughts are generally closer to home.
What’s bridged that gap has been our talks and the honesty that’s always been between us. I didn't really enjoy being a kid – always wanted to be older than I was and Craig recognized that and treated me that way. He talked to me like an adult, about adult topics. He always answered my questions, gave me a different point of view or just listened as I chattered away. The greatest lesson he taught me is the difference between love and respect and that you always love your family, no matter what, but that respect…well, that’s something they earn. He opened my eyes to the world of Thomas Covenant and the Hobbit and I’m sure I fell in love with reading in no small part to mimic his love of the same and my collection of quotes, no matter how large, will never rival his for sure.
We haven’t lived together since he left home at 20 to join the service, but over the years he’s welcomed me to visit him wherever he called home, whether in Bradford, PA., Dunkirk, N.Y., or Harrisburg, PA. Thirty plus years of my visits there and his visits home to Grand Island have always included some portion of alone time where we catch up, share confidences, advice and a good laugh or two.
On one of those visits home a few years ago he shared he was in end stage renal failure. It’s been an arduous few years for him as he’s progressed through some harrowing medical situations and thrice weekly hemodialysis. There’s not a doctor who sees him that doesn't marvel at his tenacity and acknowledges he’s a walking medical miracle.
When I opened the shawl on Christmas Eve, he said he could picture me wrapped in its warmth as I curled up on the couch with a book. I love his thoughtfulness and as he often is, he was absolutely right and it's been a wonderful week of doing just that. But the warmth goes further than he anticipated. It goes to not only being wrapped in my shawl, but wrapped in the comfort, love and warmth of a Craig hug for life.