My brother, Jeffrey Lee Ben, turns 21 this August 23rd. We made a pact some time ago that we would ring in the occasion by drinking his first legal beer together. It has been two years and seven months, give or take a couple weeks, since I have physically been in the same room as my brother. This August 23rd I will keep our promise to drink his first legal beer together despite the absence of his physicality.
I get chills, in my car, more so in the winter months of the year. Initially, it’s frightening and I want the feeling to go away. Later, it feels like the homecoming warmth of all my favorite feelings in one split-second before I feel the chill. My brother is sitting, relaxed, in the backseat of my car listening to the whirlwind of thoughts in my head. We are having conversations of silence for hours before it is time for him to go, wherever he goes.
Before he goes, we share a moment; that moment binds lifetimes of images that I cannot see as clearly when he leaves. I never want to open my eyes and return to the continuous world around me, reveling in circular bliss and breathing in love all around me; I open my eyes.
Trying to make sense of who my brother was to me and who he is to me now, I think about the infinitesimal memories that make the life-size memories seem so much more immeasurable.
The curvature of his slim feet, I remember that. His nostrils flaring from excitement, I remember that. The tiny scar above his eye; the imperfections that made him so beautiful, I remember that. His chest slowly moving up and down while he snored during his sleep, I remember that. The illumination of his face in reds and greens during an excited Christmas Eve night, I could never forget that. The textures of his long, thin fingers that would carve out his life, I can see them clearly. His deep dark expressive eyes that could give him away so easily, crystal clear.
Good whatevers that move us along seem to be life’s way of holding onto the best parts of change. Easily enough, I could fall down the spiral of anguish to feel the thick ridges in my side. I keep climbing, though, hearing the voices of my childhood that will never evolve into adulthood. I am swimming in the sounds of wishful imagery and his voice grows, deepens and makes those would-be words.
He sings for me, he writes for me, he paints for me and I grow without him still yet with him soaring in and out of my being. I am truly lucky, to have spent eighteen years without an epiphany of how overwhelming a person could be. Had the epiphany of his amazing existence hit me, long ago, I do not think my heart could stand another life-luster beat.
While I sit, in any bar in any town, waiting for my brother to show up for our drink on August 23rd, I briefly wonder what I would say or do if he walked through the door to meet me for our drink. As his bottle of beer sits across from me, I will raise mine and send him a toast when the clock hits midnight. “Happy 21st Birthday my little brother, here’s to ‘good whatevers’ and many more.”