Carmen and Will
I turned 28 last month. It was a beautiful, sunny day. My 27th year on earth was beautiful and sunny as well. Of course it had its ups and downs, but the overarching theme of 27 was love.
27 will forever be the year when I found my brother, Will. I had been looking for him for years, and a part of me thought I would never find him. The surprise and overwhelming joy of connecting with him is still reverberating in my bones.
I had a lot of fear when deciding to look for Will. The numerous worries I had could easily be delineated into one of two camps. First, I was worried that he was dead or otherwise unable or unwilling to connect with me. If he wasn’t dead maybe he was cruel and bitter. If he wasn’t cruel and bitter maybe he was in prison, or on meth, or… or… or.. My therapist Sherry says that this kind of thinking is called ‘catastrophizing’. She is not wrong, but she also has to understand that I have firsthand experience looking for someone and finding them just a minute too late. I went looking for my dad a handful of years ago, and I found him (by way of his mama, Carmen) just three weeks after he died. The more I’ve learned about him I now understand that he would not have been able to love me anyway. And while I didn’t have a person to grieve, I deeply grieved the possibility of knowing him, of being loved by a father.
My other fear in looking for Will is that he would be wonderful. I feared that maybe he was delightful, with a warm smile, and a kind heart. I feared that maybe his mother had remarried and given him a couple of siblings whom he loved dearly. Maybe he and his siblings had memories of jumping on the trampoline in their childhood front yard. Perhaps as adults they got together every Christmas and played board games and drank white Russians around the Christmas tree reminiscing on the shared experience that makes sibling relationships so magical. The possibility of this grief, the grief of time lost and a mirror image of everything I had wanted (the closeness of being known by a sibling), was even more paralyzing than the Catastrophizing Variety.
It turns out Will is delightful indeed. It turns out that we both grew up as only children of single mothers. And while we don’t have the shared experience that makes sibling relationships so magical, we share some of the same scars of being fathered by a man who wasn’t able to love us, or anyone else it seems. Our father was deeply flawed, deeply suffering for most of his too-short life, and he hurt a lot of people along the way. Our mothers, who have never met, are both fiercely independent women who sacrificed for us in ways we can never fully understand. This off-center sibling relationship is divine in all ways, the story of Will and I is written in the stars. And I believe with every fiber of my being that the force of The Universe brought us together.
Miraculous and all, it’s a bit weird getting to know a sibling as an adult. I say that with a laugh. The illustration of this odd dance we are doing is seen in this birthday text:
He texted me well wishes on my birthday. And then he sent the text above asking what kind of birthday cake I liked. This text made me laugh and cry. It captures completely the sweetness and sadness that envelope our story. We are both acutely aware of the years we have lost and all the things we do not know about each other. So he asks me about birthday cake preferences I ask him what he orders at Starbucks. I text him pictures of his nieces and nephews, and he texts me pictures of his dogs. We scour each other’s facebook pages, I see that he likes Anthony Bourdain (me too!) and he reads the archives of my blog. We ask, “How do you celebrate Christmas?” “Do you go to church?” “What’s your go-to popsicle flavor?” “Did you like middle school?” “What were your grandparents like?” “Are you an organized person?” “Did your mom make you do chores?” “Tell me about your neighborhood, your friends, your hopes and dreams.”
We are going to meet in person before the end of the summer. I am reining in every ounce of myself that wants to curate the experience. If life has taught me anything this past year it’s that my only job is to show up with an open heart. My job is to be open to the possibility that love will overwhelm me in ways that break my heart and heal it in the same breath/text message. This is how I picture it: I hug him. I show him Mulberry Street and the house filled with the people who have made me. I make him dinner of all of my favorite things (because, of course, I don’t know what any of his favorite things are): pesto on fettucine with roasted red peppers and garden tomatoes topped with pecorino and parm. Dove Ice Cream bars (which will prompt a story about David and I’ll tear up as I tell him how much I wish they could have met). Shock Top if it’s hot, Accumulation if it smells like fall.
I’ll ask “Do you prefer puzzles, or Yahtzee?”…