I am afraid of a lot of things: sharks, spiders, birds flying in my direction, horror movies, the uncertainty of my future and so much more. But the thing I fear most is forgetting about the memories I made with people who matter to me.
June 27 marks the 13th year that my brother passed away on his 25th birthday. I was only 8 years old when he passed away, which means he has been gone now longer than I even knew him.
They say that time heals all wounds and while I don’t think it heals them, it certainly helps the pain lessen. Time is a love-hate kind of thing for me. While I’m thankful that the pain stings a little less, it makes me sad to know that so much time has already passed. With that passed time, I don’t remember things as if they happened yesterday.
In a word full of selfie sticks and Instagram likes, my brother lived in a different kind of world. I have a handful of physical photos of him. That’s it. We only have two photos of us together. One that was taken a month before he passed away. I would do anything to have more pictures of him, but especially more pictures that captured the recollections I have of us together.
While I’m thankful for the eight years I knew my brother, I’m terrified I will forget about those special memories we made together. I guess I knew my memory (or lack thereof) since I was younger because when I was 9-years-old, I wrote a notebook full of our memories together. Memories like taping a pen to a vacuum cleaner and printing out the lyrics to “Hotel California” so we could pretend we were in a band together. Or the time we ate a whole box of Otter Pops in his freezing cold room and watched Tom & Jerry all day. We used to pull all-nighters and watch movies and eat fish sticks (Before I knew they were actually made with fish. Yuck.) Sadly, I lost that notebook, but I’m thankful I remember what I can.
I remember that he bought me an Etch-A-Sketch and Gameboy for my birthday. I remember pretending to be a waitress, taking his order and serving him soda. I remember feeling important when he would ask me to give him a neck massage. I remember he had “Jennifer” tattooed on him, but I still don’t really know who she was to him. I remember that he nicknamed me “Scooter” and my niece “Piggy.” I remember his laugh and how he was one of the people in our family with the ability to make my mom laugh so hard she would cry.
Of course, I wonder what life would be like with him here. Would he help me convince my mom to let me get tattoos like him? Would he still be living with us, or would he have a family of his own? Would he have been at my college graduation? I know it’s not healthy to think about those things. And after 13 years, I thought I would finally stop wondering. Maybe I never will. And maybe one day I will forget about a specific memory. Although I never want to let go of any memory I have of him, I know I’ll see him again because this world is only temporary. I know the eight-years I was lucky enough to spend with him helped shape me into who I am.
If one day, I forget a memory of ours, I know I will never forget him as a person. I will sing (and maybe cry) when “Hotel California” randomly comes on. I will enjoy an Otter Pop for him. And I will hold who he was as close to me as I possibly can. While his birthday will also be the anniversary of his death, I will always continue to celebrate his life and who he was.
I love you, Pat. Happy 38th birthday.