Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
~W.S. Merwin, "Separation"
Tonight I will be raising my glass to toast my brother, Phil. Today would have been his 46th birthday. Last month marked one year since Phil lost his battle to colon cancer. While I was painfully aware of that milestone, I determined that the anniversary of his death would not be a day of recognition. Instead, I choose to celebrate his life, his birth. Tonight, you will find me, along with Countrymouse and some others that miss him, in one of Phil’s favorite local places, sharing some sushi and a beer, reminiscing.
A quick look in the mirror or through a photo album will confirm we’re all aged but I think there is a kind of time warp in siblinghood that allows us to see each other as we always were. I suppose this can be detrimental at times, but overall, I think it helps foster our relationships. While life can try to wrap its fingers around us, this perception helps free us from its grasp.
Tonight, I will think about my brother as we boarded a plane in
to return to the States all by ourselves. We were just 8 and 9 years old. My ears wouldn’t pop. (I still have that problem). Since we were traveling alone, we were moved to First Class. Phil insisted that the man sitting across from us was Johnny Cash. I wouldn’t believe him. It was. Scotland
I will also think about getting dressed up for all those DeMolay dances we went to in high school. Phil would ask me to blow dry his hair and use my curling iron on it so all his layers would lay just right. (This was the height of Saturday Night Fever, after all.)
I will also remember the summer before Phil’s senior year in high school when my parents lost all their common sense and let Phil live (and supposedly work) at the beach all summer. Countrymouse is still in shock over this more than 25 years later. In his version of the story Phil gets younger and younger. I think the latest version has Phil at age 12. (He was really 17.) I can’t tell you how many times we’ve laughed over Countrymouse’s indignation (which I think probably was just plain ol’ jealousy).
I’ll remember many other things about Phil. I always do. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. As adults we didn’t always live close to one another and our relationship would also experience some distance from time to time. However, I can’t think about my childhood or my life without thinking about my brother. I miss him terribly. When I think of Phil, I try my hardest to be thankful for all that we did have and shared. The proverb I shared at his memorial echoes in my heart more today than ever…
“Say not in grief 'He is no more'
but live in thankfulness that he was".