Keeping Count

Me and David on his birthday in 1977 or 1978, I think…

Every year on this day, I celebrate the fact my big brother was born. And I mourn the fact that he isn’t growing any older, since he died almost 15 years ago. Today, David would have turned 62. Sixty-two! An age that, when we were kids, we would have found surreally old, an age only worn by our grandparents, an age impossible to imagine reaching. Except, now I do. Maybe it’s because I’ve outlived his 47 total years and will be missing his phone call again when I turn 50 in a couple of months. Sixty-two is only 12 years away for me, astonishing and true.

Who ever thought 12 years would seem so close? When we were growing up, that span between our ages seemed ridiculously wide. It narrowed as we became adults, and I had looked forward to it closing in even more.

15 – 62 – 47 – 50 – 12. Every year, the numbers make my head spin. Mostly, I’m surprised that I am still surprised the number 47 in that sequence will never change.

This year, David’s birthday is different in a significant way because my book about losing him will publish next month. (One day after #NationalSiblingsDay, I might add, but who noticed?) The last few weeks, I find myself chronically anxious about whether I can promote the book effectively. Whether the book will reach those who also lost a sibling and feel alone in their pain. Whether anyone who didn’t lose a sibling will be interested. Whether I’ll sell enough to ever get another book deal. Whether his friends and our family members will feel I did right by my brother, by them.

On top of that, I arrived at work this morning — at a small college in Western Massachusetts — to witness an attempted helicopter rescue in progress on the nearby mountain. It happens with some frequency, as there are lots of hiking trails there and… things happen… and each time, I have a little PTSD shudder, remembering how a volunteer search and rescue crew spent two days finding David when he went missing in the mountains in Colorado.

Each time I hear the whir of a propeller outside my office window, I desperately hope the person in distress will be successfully brought home alive. For the person, and for their friends and family. And each time, I hurt a little despite all the healing I’ve done, all the purpose I’ve found since David died. I still miss him something awful. I guess I always will.

Today, advance copies of the book — with his smiling face gracing the cover — sit on my dining room table. Despite all my nerves, I am so grateful that, after years, the work is tangible, my dream of telling the world about him is coming true.

Happy birthday, big bro. Thank you for everything you taught me. I’m excited to share our story. And I’ll keep count.


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