last night i was on the phone with a friend and he’d just told a joke and instead of laughing i started wiping tears from my face. it kinda caught me off guard because i can usually tell when i’m being affected by something. the reason for the tears was because i looked up above my desk and saw a picture of me and my brother when we were younger. in 3 seconds i thought. “he looks just like his son. look at those cheeks. wow. he’s not here anymore.” and it was in those three seconds that a lump in my throat — about the size of george washington’s nose on mount rushmore — formed in my throat. i actually couldn’t speak.
today’s his birthday. he would have been 26, just over a quarter of a century. at 26, i was traveling the country/world and approaching opportunities in love and career and life that were helping me to lock in who i really was…who i wanted to be. i was making mistakes, getting some things right, trying new things, spreading myself thin, GETTING too thin, closing chapters, starting new ones…at one point in that time i remember thinking, “i wonder if brandon will go through this when he’s this age. i wonder what advice i’ll have for him.” it’s hard for me to believe that that opportunity isn’t available for either of us.
i’ve thought about the emotional pile of melted ice cream that i would be on these bench marker days — mom’s birthday, a few days later “the anniversary” and then thanksgiving and right after christmas, new year’s, and a few weeks later, your birthday (today) — but it seems to be the days in between that are the hardest. the in-between days are the ones that tweak my heart the most, the ones that make me have to pause and deal with the “noses” in my throat. the ones that steal my appetite and make me want to shuffle and slide instead of sprint and leap.
i made a promise to you, brandon, that i would live for us both and in turn, the world around us. so today — on your birthday — i’m remembering the laughs that made my stomach hurt and the foot races that proved that you were NOT faster than i. i pull to the forefront of my heart the memories of how you use to eat EVERYthing and how you were pawpaw’s favorite grandchild. (i somehow still think that you are.) honey buns and powdered donuts and sprite, i think, were always in your blood. you are one of the most tender-hearted people and i actually learned a lot about being that way from you. you were tough, but it was beCAUSE you were so supple at heart.
i’m gonna give myself permission to — on the other 364 days of the year — let the lumps come, but on your birthday, i’m going to choose to celebrate your life and be happy. because january 17, 1989 was indeed a happy day. you still live on in my heart and at the end of it all, it’s the safest place for you to be. so HAPPY birthday, brother. here’s to many more learnings and findings and progressing WITH me ’cause i’m brining you with me wherever i go. no more “he would have been” as if you’ve stopped being here. you still exist. you’re still living and are alive. and i’m going to honor that fact as much as i can. plus, it’s another excuse to have a plate of cookies. (as if i needed one before.)
i love you.