To make a very long and dramatic story short: my best friend, Elsa got deported five years ago. It’s a very long story, and I will write a series of posts about the whole ordeal one day. But this post isn’t about her, it’s about her son: Brandon Betancourt. Brandon–Elsa’s baby boy–just turned 21. OMG, 21!!!!
Elsa and I decided to live together while I was in college. But it wasn’t just me and Elsa. It was with her two boys too. When I moved in, Brandon was 8 (I literally just pulled out my calculator to double check my math, and wow, I’ve really known him for 13 years).
Elsa was deported the summer before Brandon’s junior year in high school. At the time I felt very strongly that he needed me. He needed someone that knew where he came from; someone who knew the importance of playing football for the Mayfield Trojans; someone that would make damn sure he didn’t fall through the cracks. With Elsa gone, I wanted to keep Brandon around. Some of it was because of my connection with her. But most of it was because when he was at my house, my family felt complete. I still feel that way.
So in the two years that followed, Mayfield Trojan football again ruled my autumns in ways it hadn’t since I had been in high school. Friday nights, I threw burritos in the truck, drenched my family in green and gold and hit the road following Brandon’s high school football career. Watching him play running back for the Mayfield Trojans was a blast. He is such a dynamic player; one who was made big plays and put up some big points for the team. Every time he would score a touchdown I would tear up. I would message his mom the highlights so that she could be part of the fun.
My family and I got to be part of all of Brandon’s big high school milestones: prom, letterman jackets, MHS/LCHS rivalry games, and his senior year a state championship football game!!! That game was one of the most exciting football games of my life. Brandon had 220 rushing yards, and not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns. That day, I cried tears of joy for him and because of him, just as I had throughout his entire football season.
After his high school football career, Brandon had the great fortune of being offered football scholarships at both UNM and NMSU. Of course, I would have been supportive of any decision he made, but I was really hoping he would stick around Las Cruces and go to NMSU. When he signed with the Aggies, I let out a sigh of relief. I would be able to have a front row seat on his next journey in life. And a journey is exactly what it has been. Once I started meeting his college friends we quickly adopted the words “aunt” and “nephew” to describe our relationship to them. Genetically he is not my nephew and I am not his aunt, but I’ve never been one to get hung up on silly details. In my heart he is my family. I love him and he loves me. It’s really just that simple.
Brandon has grown so much in his college years, and I’ve been blessed by the new cast of characters he’s introduced me to. I’ll tell you about them later, but for now, I wonder, “Where does the time go? Brandon is already a junior!”
While I initially felt that Brandon really needed me in his life five years ago, now I question how much that is still true. Mostly, it’s because I see how he’s grown. Brandon has determination and strength that is incredible. Yes, there have been moments he has stumbled–and I’m sure there will be more–but his drive comes from a place far outside what I could have ever provided him.
What I do know is that now, I need him. He held my hand while I got my diagnosis. He provides me a muscular shoulder to literally lean on. He’s a young man of very few words but sent me this incredibly sweet message while I was waiting for my test results.
“One thing I’ve always lived by and always will live by is the power of believing! Everything is and will be okay no matter what the results say Friday! You–out of all people in my life–are very special, not because your my mom’s best friend or because you have helped me, but because you are so strong! I’ve never met someone that is willing to put in so much work into something just to see people happy at the end. I’ve never met someone with a better attitude than you! Thank you so much for making an impact on my life! You are considered one of the “greats” in my life up there with my mamma and grandpa! Keep being the role model you are!”
Neither of us have had much luck come our way recently. Life has been a roller coaster that we both wanted off at times. But what luck we’ve lacked in some things has been made up for in having each other. I love you, Brandon, my lucky #21.