Today, I celebrate 31 fabulous years of you. The night and day of your arrival defy my usually horrible memory. It was late night, October 28, 1979:
I was seven years old. Mom and I slept on the family room floor (yes, she slept on the floor even then), under a garish, muli-colored afghan. (Maybe Grandma knitted it to match our rainbow shag carpet...ahhh, the 70s). Suddenly, Mom bolted up because her water broke.
(Side note: I know that most guys don't really enjoy thinking about exactly how they entered this world, so I won't dwell here. But it bears mentioning because I'm profoundly moved, even 31 years later, to know I was there when you decided it was time to arrive.)
Someone drove me to a pre-appointed friend's house. My senses continued on high alert: the cold of the red, vinyl Chevy seats seeping through my pajamas. The craggy branches of the emptying trees boldly stretching into the dark October sky. The palpable anticipation--and my sense of co-conspirator in the whole event--fluttered wildly in my belly. It seemed as if the entire world pulsed in chorus: The baby's coming! The baby's coming!
The next morning, I sat in my second grade class. Suddenly, the PA system crackled and the principal called me to his office. (Thank you for that, dear brother, for that was the only time in my entire goody-two-shoes life that I ever got called to the principal's office. But, I digress...)
And then they told me. My baby brother had arrived.
I could hardly wait to meet you, to hold you. To see you. In honor of the occasion, I chose a super special outfit consisting of one red and blue plaid wool kilt, tights, pig tails, a toothless-smile and brownish-tanish cork wedge sandals. Absolutely smashing.
I remember walking through the long, antiseptic hospital halls which seemed to stretch on forever.
And then, finally, you.
You. You're such an amalgamation. I've so many swirling memories of you bringing laughter and tears. You gifted your first smile of your life to me. You, at two, wearing my doll's tiny straw hat, while riding your Crayola crayon bike. You, also at two, throwing a temper tantrum because I wouldn't let you play in the drinking fountain (by the way, dude--Mom's rule, not mine.) You, at 10, wildly independent. You, at 12, visiting my sorority house in one of your black Megadeath tshirts. (A unique juxtaposition to my circa 1992 Laura Ashley floral print dress with a peter pan collar.) Your talent and love of drawing: if you didn't have a pencil and paper, you drew imaginary pictures in the air. You, at 30, preparing to marry a beautiful, intelligent, warm woman whose love of you rivals mine.
Sometimes the polarity in our personalities confounds me:
You: stoic (Me: not so much)
You: long black eyelashes (Me: blond eyelashes...WTF?)
You: let's say, not as concerned with putting things away (Me: Type A neat freak)
Your crazy intelligence. I always knew you were smart, but will never forget the time I figured out that you were wicked smart. You and I visited with some of my friends at a bar. You were an undergrad. Someone mentioned religious theory and you calmly interspersed details and themes of all worldly religions like you were just talkin' about the weather. Totally a "how 'bout them apples" moment.
I admire your integrity. And your solid moral compass. And your knowledge of self. You knew, with absolute certainty, how you wanted to craft your career--you refused to take any job unless it filled your soul and made your heart sing (ok, those are my words, not yours, but you get my drift).
You're an amazing uncle. Remember when Abby was about four-months-old and we were at Mom's? I ate salt and vinegar potato chips near her and you worried about the crumbs getting into her tiny eyes; you were concerned that the vinegar could harm her. Honestly...what 20-something guy thinks about those things? And you still have some amazing karmic gift coming your way for babysitting Abby, just 13-weeks old, when you got doused with breast milk. (Dads don't even like that. Sorry man.) You last winter, playing in the snow with Abby and Henry for hours.
You cried when I asked you if you'd walk me down the aisle at my wedding.
I am honored to have you as my brother and my friend. The sureness of our bond, the intricacy of our roots, well...as they say, run deep. I love knowing that I've got you in my corner. You are one of the most upstanding, strong men I know. And, in case I have't told you, you restored my faith--kept my faith--in the male persuasion when others did their best to tarnish that faith.
I love you, baby brother. Happy Birthday.