My little brother, Chris, had a speech impediment when we were kids. His speaking problems manifested themselves in a number of ways, but the one I remember most was his inability to pronounce hard r’s. So he spoke in the way that we find laughably “cute” in children. Baby talk. A sentence like “Where is the right chair, Andrew?” became “Whey-oh is the white chay-oh, And-oo?” It’s darn cute, I can’t deny it. The trouble is that it’s only “cute” until about the age of five. After that it becomes a problem.
For a while I became a translator for my brother. Because the above glitch wasn’t his only impediment, it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was saying at all. Especially if he was saying it fast or if he was emotional. I remember walking into the kitchen once and seeing my brother red in the face and my mom asking, “I’m sorry baby, what is it you want?” Chris spit out something that sounded like a wizards curse coming out of the mouth of a six year old. My mothers face fell further as she failed to understand her own son. “He wants a peanut butter and jelly Mom.”
Ironically, the older I get the more I feel like I relate to my baby brothers speech impediments. The older I get the more I find myself in situations where I can’t get my lips to form the right words no matter how hard I try. I pray, and it’s as if I can feel God staring at me from a distance with a confused look on His face. People hurt me and I can’t get them to understand why my wounds are still bleeding. I have emotions and experiences and passion that I want to express, but I can’t paint the right picture or hit the right note or dance (at all). I can’t write the right blog post.
Today, my little brother is one of the most determined people I know. When he decides he wants to do something there is nothing and no one who can stop him from doing it. This kid woke himself up early on weekend mornings to study for hours for the ACT and SAT. He led multiple groups at our high-school, both academic and extracurricular. In absolutely everything he does Chris holds himself to a standard of excellence, and anyone who knows him adores him because when it comes to loving people he holds himself to the same standard: excellence.
And yet- I can still see his nine year old self. Still struggling to form his words, still furiously embarrassed by the betrayal of his own voice. I see these two pictures of my brother and remember that where I am today is not where I will always be. I remember that just because people can’t understand me right now doesn’t mean they don’t love me. Right now there are things I don’t know how to say, feelings I don’t know how to express- right now I am red in the face wishing there was someone to translate for me. Someday, the words will come and they will be bold. They will be brilliant. They will be beautiful.
My little brother doesn’t need a translator anymore. As we grew up, he spent a couple days in speech therapy every week for a few years. He got better. He learned how to speak in a way that people could understand. In fact he became so well spoken and smart that he became valedictorian of his class. On the day of his high school graduation my little brother stood at a podium in front of thousands of people and delivered an absolutely brilliant speech. More than most, I understood every word he spoke. They were bold. They were beautiful.