Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. it's the life in your years."

Today is my brother's 21st birthday.

Happy birthday, Timmy!!!

And also thank you for reaching a personal milestone that makes me feel older than dirt.

Today I'm remembering when we used to fight and rip out each other's throats at the drop of a hat. I'm remembering the game we were playing in the basement before Mom and Dad had it finished - the one that resulted in me accidentally dislocating your shoulder. (I know my adamance of the accident actually being accidental has become a bit of a family joke, but I swear it was.) But mostly I'm remembering sitting next to you in the car, stroking your arm, and the deafening, stratospheric octave your voice reached when you screamed all the way to the ER at Saint Margaret's.

That wasn't the first (or last) time you'd give Mom gray hairs with injuries and hospital visits. You were barely a year old, and I remember visiting you in the hospital. Mom sat by your crib and cried because back then, they had tall bars and a "ceiling," like a cage or jail cell, and she couldn't hold you and make it all better. I sat on Dad's lap and we read books to you. As a family, we watched Saturday morning cartoons during your stay, and Dad used to sing us the theme song from Chilly Willy and you'd giggle. I remember the sound of steady the beep of the machines you were hooked up to.

I remember driving us to school one morning in my little red Grand Am and the way the impact felt when the car hit us as we were turning left onto 231. The early-summer sun felt good as we stood outside and assessed the damages, you patting my back as I cried and tirelessly attempting to convince me that Dad wouldn't kill me for this. The first hint of a future filled with mutual respect and admiration became clear to me that evening when I frantically bawled to Dad, "He had his right turn signal on! That's the only reason I turned left onto the road!" and you agreed with me, telling Dad that you saw the signal, too. I have no idea if you actually saw it, but the fact that you stood tall by my side (at a time when you were still shorter than me!) warmed my heart and changed the way I felt about you.

That winter when I was driving us to school south on a snowy 41 and I hit a patch of ice, I remember thinking the entire time the car was spinning 360 degrees, please don't let my brother get hurt. And I also remember that when we stopped spinning and landed unhurt in the ditch in front of Cassie Spiechert's house, the first words out of your mouth after what felt like an eternity of panicked silence were "Are you okay, Beck?" Earlier that year, when Dad and I came home from putting Snowball to sleep, you came into my room when you knew I'd be crying all alone, and you sat next to me on my bed. You didn't say anything, and we just sat there, side by side, your shoulder supporting mine, and we looked at his red collar sitting across from us on my dresser.

You were only in eighth grade then, and still your selfless, emotional nature prevailed when it mattered. That's what I remember most about growing up with you, Tim. We fought a lot... maybe a lot more than other brothers and sisters... but when we both started growing up a bit, you very quickly became someone I knew I'd always look up to and admire, despite our five-year age difference. We've evolved into something I'm very proud to be a part of, something that means more to me than I'll probably ever be able to tell you. And you're becoming a better man - a more honest, compassionate, and caring man - than I ever dared to hope you'd be.

For most people, reaching age 21 is the peak. You'll probably hear tons of people tell you "everything's downhill after 21" - in fact, Mom has probably already told you that twelve times, each time seamlessly seguing (in the way that only she can do) into the "don't do 21 shots on your birthday or else you'll DIE" lecture that I know you're so fond of hearing. And she's right. A lot of people do think that everything's downhill after 21, and you shouldn't do 21 shots on your birthday. But I think that for you, your peak will be a ways further down the road. You have too much going for you - too much character, intelligence, and spirit - to let the age of 21 be your high point. But 21 shots still probably is not the best idea (even though we do come from a long line of partiers who could probably handle that feat in their sleep - piece of cake).

The one thing I wish for you on your 21st birthday is the ability to give yourself credit for the things you've done in your young life. You've overcome a lot of setbacks, from your health at an early age, and from people you've encountered as you've gotten older. You've achieved more than I have at 25 and more than Mom and Dad had at your age. You're a brilliant man, a caring soul, and the funniest person I'll ever meet in my entire life. And you were able to do this ages before your 21st birthday:
Your big sister


peter smith said...

happiness today to my friend.

Trust, faith, love and smile

Lead you to happiness.

Aunt Becky said...

Happy Birthday, Timmy. Trust me, life AFTER 21 is way, way better.

WeightingGame said...

Oh...I got goosebumps reading that! It also made me afraid to ever have kids. How do we manage to make it through all of those accidents, anyway?
My "little" brother is having a baby with his wife in three months. Talk about feeling older than dirt! But I will be a fabulous aunt. You sound like a truly wonderful sister...xo

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

Awww thanks Beck! That almost made me cry. It was very sweet.

I wish I had the natural ability to put feelings into words like you do so I could show you what you mean to me too. At least, I hope you always know that I love you.

And don't sell yourself short! Look at all that you've accomplished at only 25...I think if you just looked, you'd be surprised at how much it is...

PS, can't wait for Scotty's tonight :)

KC said...

Awww...what a sweet family. Welcome to the world of legal boozing, Timmy!