My grandmother believes that a woman’s value is determined by her ability to find a good husband.  My mother was brought up by threats that her behaviour would drive away men and leave her a spinster, like her pitiful aunts.    My mother relays these stories with a combination of scorn and amusement, but still has been happily married to my wonderful father for 32 years.

I have had no such luck in my love life.  The plan was to go to varsity, meet The One and spend the rest of my life discussing literature with a gorgeous, rich man who has a cute smile and a naughty sense of humour.  But my relationships have always been… complicated, and ended with a fine combination of heart trampling and dream crushing.  It’s scary out there.

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I’ve recently started dating a lovely guy – so I’m right back on that road to destruction – and maybe one day I’ll write a similar tribute to him if he can withstand my demanding chocolate addiction and learn to bring me tea in the mornings.  But today I write to thank the man who has consistently been the best person in my life – the man who from my very first day has been everything in the world to me.

My brother was four when I was born and had, for months of my mother’s pregnancy, been carrying around a stick he called his sister.  I think he knew from the outset that this whole brother thing was something he could be good at.

I was spoilt growing up – with home-made bed time stories and helping me to dress me paper dolls (he drew the line at Barbies) and games of marco-polo and hide-and-go-seek when he was far too old to be enjoying them.    I remember every single time he scolded me – when I didn’t say “thank you” to someone for a lift; when I was rude to my mother;  and when I got my first hickey at the tender age of 13.  In high school and varsity he was a typical protective brother, but even when I acted like it annoyed me, really it just made me feel special.

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I know that if he could he would protect me from the whole world, but last year I got cancer and no amount of shouting or threatening was going to change that.  So instead, he learnt everything there was to know about my illness and my treatment.  He spent half the year in Johannesburg with me, and half the year on the other side of the country at home with his job and his girlfriend.   He sat with me through hours of chemo; he lay with me as I fell asleep; he did my dishes and my laundry; he read me books on Roman Law; he played endless games of scrabble with me even though his spelling is atrocious; he reminded me to take my temperature every morning and every night, even if he wasn’t with me and had to call.  He held me when I was crying, but most of the time he did a great job of making me laugh.

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So today I say thank you to the man who saved my sanity and just may have saved my life – as if I didn’t love you enough already.

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