I don’t know how to write about my brother.
It is his nineteenth birthday, today, and I wanted to write him something he could look back on later and feel good about. I wanted to tell some funny stories and make some observations and to tie it up lovingly without gushing, but for whatever reason, it is too hard. He’s such a complex person that I don’t know how to even talk about him to people without a lot of, “well, yes and no”s, and, “kind of, but not really?”s and “he can be, but, isn’t always” sorts of nuanced caveats. Part of it may be that I don’t have a lot of distance from him (physically or otherwise, these days, since we are currently sharing a bedroom wall, a bathroom, and the DVR box). Part of it is that I don’t know who he is really, and I think mainly, he’s not sure who he is, either. More, he’s not confident in the amazing person he can become.
We are very different in some respects, and practically identical in others:
I am an extrovert; he is an introvert.
I love to immerse myself in new and strange experiences; he likes to immerse himself in the sectional sofa in the bonus room and play Xbox.
I trust and generally respect authority; he questions, probes, and pushes it.
I jump through hoops because it’s easy; he says “to hell with your hoops” and wants to know why it’s being asked of him.
I do things assuming they have merit; he has to see the merit in something before doing it.
He played varsity sports; I lettered in choir, art, and leadership.
He expects people to have a sense of humor about everything; I am typically wary of upsetting people.
We both love words and are talented at vocabulary games (Boggle, Scrabble, etc). We both struggle in math. We both are really into finding and listening to good music (mainly indie rock and electronic for me; hip-hop for him). We both roll our eyes at the dinner table at the same things (Mom’s confusion about the difference between “doing a 180” and “doing a 360”; Dad’s long-winded jokes with the flubbed punchlines ) and we both laugh at the dinner table at the same things (Mom’s stories about the cute kids at work; Brother’s constant insertion of Family Guy plotlines into serious political or humanitarian discussions; Dad’s good college stories). We both miss our dog, Keats. We both want to have lots of kids so they can have each other in a larger family than we managed to be a part of.
The thing is, he’s had some pretty heavy health complications in recent years which have coincided with the already decidedly difficult process of becoming a young man. It has been supremely hard to watch him suffer this injustice. I have faith that he will come out of this stronger, deeper, and better but sometimes, he doesn’t have that clarity or confidence. So today, for his birthday, I am going to wish 19 things for his future.
Nineteen things I couldn’t wrap up with a bow; nineteen things he might not even know to ask for; nineteen things to which he can look forward.
1. I hope you can wake up in the morning and feel excited about tackling the day.
2. I hope you start to write more, so we can have the privilege of knowing what’s going on in your head.
3. I hope you stop worrying so much.
4. I hope you find a girl that makes you feel like the most important man on earth.
5. I hope that you will attend the college of your choice.
6. I wish for you a college experience that teaches you about others, about the world, about yourself, and about the important distinctions between Coors Light and Bud Light.
7. I wish for you a college graduation.
8. I wish you a fulfilling career or series of jobs that taps into your sensitive heart, your sense of humor, and your skills as a deep thinker.
9. I wish that you would discover the merits of a varied and well-cultivated wardrobe (not that I don’t love your white tees, it’s just…they so plainly reveal your affinity for ketchup).
10. I wish you the desire for more.
11. I wish that you would learn how to operate a vacuum. Or a dishwasher. Or a washing machine.
12. I hope for you that Kraft continues to develop microwavable foodstuffs, so that you never go hungry.
13. I wish that you would actually record and release the Ill Advised Mixtape.
14. I wish that you will soon see yourself as the handsome, unstoppable, smart, worthy person the rest of us see.
15. I wish (okay, for us both) that the second part of Metalocalypse Season 3 would hurry up and air.
16. I wish for you to be my future kids’ favorite uncle (so far, you’re the default, but you never know what kind of in-laws I could end up with).
17. I wish for you the interest in, and opportunity to, travel and see this great big small world we live in.
18. I wish for you the perspective, someday, on the absolute blessing our parents are, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. They are really really cool people.
19. I wish you health. And joy. And a full, bright, tomorrow.
Happy birthday, brother.
And, of course: I love you.