Today should be your 40th birthday, but it’s not. You didn’t make it past 35. That magic number we had always been terrified about. I’m supposed to call you today, and tease you about getting old. You would say that no matter how old you got, I would always be older. It is still true. Because you will always be 35, and now I am 41 even though we were born a year apart.
I suppose, a fitting tribute should be about you. How funny you were. How if you had a little more time, I’m sure you would have straightened your life out. How, for awhile, you were a good dad. How, for awhile, you were a good brother. But in the end, you weren’t so great at either.
And so, I suppose, I will make this about me, even though it’s your birthday. I’m still pretty mad at you. I don’t know if I will ever understand the choices that you made. The things you chose instead of your family. And those boys. Those beautiful boys, who are now almost men, and you will never see them grown. They look like you, you know. On the rare occasions I see them, it takes my breath away, seeing your face in theirs.
You didn’t come to my graduation. You aren’t my first reader anymore. You don’t come to my house and eat dinner and laugh with your brothers anymore. No matter how happy we are when we get together, there’s always a hole. For awhile, when you were still here, but not here, that hole was filled with talk and worry about whether you were OK. And later, whether you would get better. Now we know the answer.
I think about all the things you won’t do. I think about how you were my brother who wasn’t my brother. Happy Birthday, Joshie. I will always be older.