What I Miss the Most

Today marks the day my brother should have turned 26. A day that should be spent celebrating and laughing is instead spent in a quiet, private sadness that I try to hide from everyone around me. Because my brother isn’t turning 26 today; because he never made it past 17. Instead of being sappy and sad, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about my favorite memories spent with him. Thirteen years wasn’t long enough, but it was still enough time to live through moments that last a lifetime. I love my brother with everything I have, but these are the things I love the most. The things I miss the most.

I miss the times we would lay outside, staring up at the clouds. We would point out the shapes to each other and make up stories about them. We didn’t do it very often, but when we did, it was so much fun. And when it was dark, we’d do the same with the stars, trying to get the other to see the same picture in the dots. Now every time I see shapes in the clouds or connect the stars into a picture, I turn to tell you, but of course you’re not there.

Every time the wind picks up, I think of that night we went to a movie night at the library in town. The wind got so bad, they sent us all home. Rather than calling our mom, we decided to chance it because we really didn’t live that far. We ran as fast as we could across the baseball field, but we were no match for the strong wind. We ran so hard, barely making any progress. We were halfway across and exhausted when Mom pulled up to drive us home.

I miss whenever we tried to find a movie to watch, I’d ask what you wanted to watch, and you always said, “The back of my eyelids.” Always without fail, that’d be your response. We’d laugh at the joke for the hundredth time before getting serious about deciding what to turn on. It was usually a cheesy comedy; the kind that no one else had ever heard of. But we’d watch it over and over, laughing at the stupidity of the entire thing.

I think of those times when we were both so little, and I had that purple car; the kind you use your feet to make move. You’d take a bungee cord and hook one end to the steering wheel and the other to your bike. I’d hang my legs out the side, and you’d take off pulling me behind. We go up and down the sidewalk again and again, laughing the entire time. I’d give anything to go back and have a day like that just one more time.

Every time I see a puddle left over from the rain, I think of all those times we’d beg to go outside as soon as it stopped falling. We’d grab our bikes, and ride through the puddles over and over, soaking our legs and shoes. We said we were playing Rocket Power, a show we both loved. We would ride through the puddles, sometimes getting stuck in the deep ones, splashing the water as much as we could until our toes were numb from the cold water and we’d squish back inside.

I miss when we were younger and played our own version of Fear Factor. We would give each other three challenges to complete, usually involving the old wooden monkey bars on our swing set. We could go back and forth for hours, never running out of things to do. We played almost every day, except on Monday nights when the show was actually on. Then we sat in front of the T.V., cheering on our favorites and eager to see what challenges they had for the players that day.

That wasn’t the only game we made up. It seemed like we never stopped making up new games to play. There was the one we named Knocker, that was just a spin on ball tag. There was Shark Tag, which become our little brother’s favorite game. There was the one we never actually named, because it wasn’t long after we started to play that you weren’t there anymore. It seemed like our creativity never ran out, and who could be bored with an endless possibility of games to play.

When the Christmas came that we got a brand-new toy, that became the center of all our fun. The green plasma car that would go when you shock the steering wheel; the perfect toy for a 16-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 6-year-old to play on for hours at a time. We would come home from school and head straight down to the basement where it was waiting for us from the night before. We’d spend all afternoon down there until it was time to eat supper. Then we’d finish our chores as fast as we could and go back down to play until bedtime came. We played every game we could imagine on that and rode it until it didn’t move anymore.

When we didn’t feel like playing on the plasma car or just needed a breather, we would shoot pool on the hand me down pool table. So many games were played on that old thing.  We could spend a whole afternoon down there playing pool. Our little brother would have to sit on the edge to shoot, because he was still too short to see over the top. You won most games, but that didn’t matter to me; I was just happy to be there, smiling and laughing with you.

Basketball was your favorite game, but I didn’t like it that much. I wasn’t good at it and I got bored with it fast, but I always played when you asked. Anything to just spend time with you because how many big brothers want to hang out with their kid sister? So, I played again and again, whatever basketball game we decided. As much as I used to complain, I’d give anything to have one more game.

I can barely touch a basketball anymore, because when I do, I’m filled with crushing memories of you. That was the last game we played together; that game of 21. I never thought that would be the last time I’d see you smiling and laughing, and just being alive. Because when you went inside that night, you never went back out. We never finished the game, so I guess no one really won. I can’t help but wonder if you knew what would happen even then? Did you try to leave me with one last good memory or was it simply just another Tuesday night?

Just like that you were gone, and that’s something I will never understand. The one who taught me how to tie my shoes, who tried so hard to teach me how to do the perfect layup (something I still can’t do), and who let me sleep on the floor next to his bed when I was scared of the dark. The person I thought would always be there with me is now just someone I have to miss. You weren’t there to see me graduate and you won’t be there to see me do it again, this time with a bachelor’s degree. You weren’t there to see me go to college or to see me become the person I am today. You won’t be there if I get married and you’ll never meet my kids. Instead, I’ll have to explain to them why their uncle is someone they’ll never get to see. You weren’t there to see me grow up, because you never grew up yourself.

I’ll never understand why you chose to leave, I’ll never stop wishing I could go back and do everything different, I’ll never stop replaying that last day over and over in my head, I’ll never stop wondering about who you would have become, but most of all,  I’ll never stop missing you and you loving you with everything I have.

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For My Coworkers

It’s rare to find someone who you instantly click with; someone who seems to just get it. Someone who seems to genuinely care about you, even though you don’t think you really did anything to deserve it. Someone who never fails to make you smile, even on your worst days. It’s even more rare to find several of these people; you’re lucky to find just one, let alone many. When you aren’t used to this kind of treatment- this type of kindness- it can come as shock when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by people who value you for who you are. Somehow, I found myself stumbling into a pack of these people, all under one roof.

That’s the funny thing about jobs; sometimes they become more than just a paycheck. Sometimes they become more than just a place you have to be, but places you want to be. The become something you look forward to and start to feel like a break from all your stress. Before you know it, you discover a type of love that you didn’t even know existed- one that is brand new and one that you don’t really understand. All you know is that when you go to work, you laugh harder than you have in a long time. You can’t seem to stop smiling. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you always leave in a good mood. You start to feel better than you have in months, and suddenly life doesn’t seem to be bearing down on you quite as much.

You feel like the genuinely care about you. When you have a bad day, they ask you what’s wrong and actually care about the answer. They call you on the work phone to tell you cheesy jokes. They tell you stories that make you laugh. They get you to open up about the parts of yourself you don’t like. They match your sarcasm on every level and they tease you like they’ve known you for years. They come to your desk just to chat or to ask if everything is okay. They lend an ear when you need it and put up with all your annoyances. Suddenly they become more than just the people you work with- they become friends. They become so important to you, that the thought of leaving them someday is enough to bring tears to your eyes, because you can no longer imagine a life without them in it. You can’t imagine where you’d be today if you hadn’t taken that job.

As much as you want them all to know how much you appreciate them and how thankful you are that they are a part of your life, you still find it difficult to show it. How do you let someone know they mean the world to you, when you are still relearning how to feel? How do you show them how much you care, when you aren’t used to letting yourself get close to people? When you aren’t used to opening yourself up and letting people in, you start to feel a little lost within yourself. What do they see in you that you’ve never been able to see? Why do they feel you are worthwhile when you barely know that yourself? Are you just fooling yourself into thinking they actually care? Do you mean anything to them at all?

But then you realize you don’t care. Instead of obsessing over behaviors and analyzing every little detail, you make a choice to just enjoy it while it lasts. You take it for what it’s worth and hold it close because something like this doesn’t come around very often. You know you’re not easy to be around, but for some reason you can’t figure out, they don’t seem to mind so much. So, you decide to let them know how thankful you are for them in every way you know how. You call with your own jokes. You go to their desks. You send cheesy photos and videos on Facebook. You send ridiculous messages. You tease them like crazy. You bring cupcakes and bars on holidays. You bake little cakes in jars and spend hours making sure they all look perfect. You do projects for class based on them. You buy silly valentines and stuff them with candy to hand out. You write sappy blog posts.

I don’t know where this world will take me, and I definitely don’t know if I will ever have another job that fills me with as much life as this one does. I don’t know if any of the people I now hold in my heart will ever realize how much they mean to me, and I don’t know if they even care. But I do know that I will forever be thankful for the experiences I’ve had while working here. I know that they are irreplaceable. I know that they are some of the best people this world has to offer. I know that my heart will break if the day comes that I have to say goodbye. I know that the memories I have made with them are ones I will cherish forever. I know that they played a huge role in bringing me back to life, and that is something that’s incredibly rare.

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