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.