Thursday, February 17, 2011

Standing Tall, With My Brother Beside Me

Maya the Bee & Josh the BLT sandwich, Halloween 1990

rowing up, my brother and I had the normal sibling issues. Josh is four years older than me, so I was beyond fascinated by him and his much bigger, much cooler friends. I, on the other hand, was the  nosey "little sis. "While our age difference prevented us from being on the same page, I always knew he was there for me. I received my fair share of noogies, but there were also definite perks to having my big brother. He showed me the ways of the world; he made me laugh like no other and taught me what was and wasn't cool (I'm still not quite sure I have this down, though). I looked up to him because - when push came to shove - Josh was always there. He was my protector and I knew it.

I've posted this poem before; it's a piece based on a true story and, in my eyes, says it all:

Stepping on a Nest with my Brother
in Lovell, Maine: Summer of ‘91

It just takes one bee 
to remind me of your heel 
punched through 
that pregnant nest, 
the petite army filing out 
until the air looked 
just like rain falling 
upwards. I remember
all of it: the wing-buzz 
on my earlobe, my fat knees
made fatter with venom 
and your Velcro sandals 
breaded in the angry things. 
I’ve said it was the spice 
of the stingers I remember
most when really
it’s the piggybacked topple 
into Lake Kezar, the tallying 
our wounds, licking them
like postage. Even now, 
years later I remember you 
this way: some odd superhero, 
cape of hornets blazing behind.

It seemed that almost as soon as Josh turned 18 and left for college, he became my buddy - a phenomenon that isn't unique to us Klaubers. Joni Mitchell said it best... "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got til it's gone?" We've been building a pretty incredible friendship ever since and I think it's safe to say it's come to a pinnacle lately.

When Josh and I were hanging out a few weeks ago, he reminded me that, when I was in the midst of my worst flare last fall, I mentioned my desire for a tattoo. My idea was to get the words "Stand Tall" printed on my back - "Stand Tall" being the slogan of the Spondylitis Association of America. Having survived that period in my life, I could look to those words when I needed help remembering my own strength. Deep down, however, I knew it wasn't an option for me. Since I've been on TNF Blockers since age 16, even the smallest things such as hang nails or cold sores, can snowball into raging infections over night. So I wasn't about to take my chances on an unknown tattoo parlor. Josh stored this idea away and decided to surprise me by getting the tattoo FOR me - news that left me totally speechless!

After much consideration, he's thinking of getting this font (the only one my mom, his wife Erica, and I all agreed upon):

The more I think about it, the more this gesture means to me. Over the past year, Josh has been there for me in ways that are hard to describe. More than ever, he's been that "superhero" I mentioned in my poem, always sending messages of support and offering to help in any way possible. Most notably, I remember one night last fall when my pain was completely out of control. It was around 2am and there was no way I could sleep; even the strongest painkillers weren't working and I was felt completely lost. I signed online and immediately got a message from Josh asking why I was still up - a kind of brotherly sixth sense, perhaps. I explained my pain to him and there he stayed, just listening and sending me all kinds of fun websites. We talked until I finally felt sleepy. I will never forget that night because - really - it's an anecdote that represents our entire relationship. When push comes to shove, Josh is always there.
Even if he were to change his mind about getting this tattoo, the thought alone has already meant the world to me. I'm pretty sure I've got the best brother out there. 

We're planning on heading to a Brooklyn tattoo parlor together in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for an update and feel free to leave comments for Josh!



  1. that is so amazing! what a wonderful brother you have!!

  2. Maya, I always enjoy your blog postings, they never fail to tingle my spleen. Though I must admit, I enjoy your poetry even more.

  3. very cool. i read a post of another AS patient, who also had a brother do that. he had 'stand tall' vertically tattooed (sp?) down his back.

    you are so blessed with a a loving and supportive family. xoxo

  4. Aw super cute! This reminds me of my niece and nephew. My niece has speech delay and motor delay...she's four. Her 9 year old brother and my nephew always protects and watches out for her since she has bad balance. He even recorded her show and tell in his voice at school because of her speech delay. So maybe someday I'll see something like this on her blog. :) You are a very blessed lady!

  5. Josh, I think you and John should go together. "Stand" on your back and "Tall" on John's! Wouldn't that be funny for John's tattoo to say "Tall"? You are a good brother and makes me miss mine very much. Maya, that poem made me tear up. George carried me at 4 years old across the long yard that connected our house with my grandparents as I cried in pain from a sting on the bottom of my foot. Brothers are the bane and then the best!

  6. John: I'm glad you like my writing, but you'll have to explain that whole "tingling your spleen" thing hahah

    Betsy:I actually saw that same post and mentioned it to my brother... funny coincidence! Family and friends are everything - I know you agree :)

    Kelli: Thanks for sharing your niece and nephew with me. Your nephew sounds like an incredible person and a lot like my brother. It is a true gift to have someone looking out for you and always wanting the best for you. I do count myself very blessed.

    Margaret: I love that idea! haha especially the thought of the word "tall" on John. I'm glad my poem moved you and I can't believe you have a memory that is so similar. I so wish I had known George...

  7. So wonderful!!

    I loved nothing more than spending time with both you and Josh, seeing the relationship between you two, it's clearly so special. He just had this look of complete attention & concern whenever a 'spondylicious' moment was mentioned. So great to have so much love in your family:)

    Margaret's idea=brilliant! haha

    p.s. Josh, I must say, you make a pretty good BLT!!

  8. Kate: Thanks so much for your beautiful comment. It means so much that you've met Josh and can attest to the relationship we've built. I know that you and your two beautiful sisters have a similar love between you and I think it's safe to say that you and I are truly blessed.
    PS: I agree with you - Josh is one handsome sandwich! hehe

  9. I agree. Your writing is "spleen tingling".

  10. What a lucky girl to have such an incredible brother! =)

  11. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful brother!

    My sister is 4 years older than me and we are like night and day. I've tried and tried to get close to her, but it just hasn't worked. We are civil, we keep in touch, but we aren't "sisters".

    I envy your relationship with your brother. I'm so happy for you.

    I hope you are pain free, and feeling better.

    I found your blog through PFAM's blog carnival.


  12. Hi Wendy! I just wanted to thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughtful comment. The older I get, the more I appreciate the relationship I have with my brother - family really is everything. You sound like a wonderful person and I hope your sister comes around. All my best...I hope you'll come back again!

  13. This is so lovely. I teared up.

    (Found you through PFAM.)

  14. My own PFAM submission was mainly about my brother, too. He has his own struggles, but he's always got my back.

    Yay, brothers!