Baby brother –
This is the second birthday of yours where I’ve had to do this – write you a letter in celebration of your birthday, while you’ve been thousands and thousands of miles away. Though I love writing you these birthday letters every year, and imagine I will for every birthday of yours for the rest of your life, I wish I didn’t have to. I wish celebrating your birthday were as easy as walking into your room, shaking you awake and giving you a big birthday hug. But here we are again – celebrating with thousands of miles between us. So let’s make the most of it, shall we?
I was talking to Aunt Maria last Friday night, discussing how sad it was that you wouldn’t be able to have a drink on your 21st birthday – to which she laughed and said, “Because that would be Brett’s first drink, right?” You really have spoiled the special significance of turning 21, you know? It makes me laugh to think of it too, because you truly are so hilarious – and even more so when you’re drunk.
The first time you got drunk you were around 11 years old. And before anyone tries to reactively call child services on mom, it should be known that neither she [nor I!] knew what you were doing until after you had done it. We were all at Theresa’s house and there was some sort of celebration going on – maybe a birthday, perhaps it was Easter? I don’t really know because back in the day all of us found a reason to celebrate everything. So celebrate we did! And Tynan, being the good influence that he always was, snuck you a flute of champagne. And then another one. And then another one. Until, finally you were a giggly, stumbling drunk and mom was FUMING. I thought it was hilarious. Firstly, because you were a far less annoying little brother when you were falling down drunk. And secondly, because everybody knows that champagne gives you a BITCH of a hangover. Given that, I knew it was highly unlikely you’d be getting drunk again any time soon.
Another favorite drunk Brett memory is when you decided to accompany me to Jackie’s college graduation party in San Diego. One of my best friends in the world was celebrating a huge accomplishment, I knew there’d be refreshments and I’d hoped not to have to drive myself back home. So you kindly offered to be my DD. Of course, as soon as you arrived, all of the partygoers became enthralled by your charm, your goofy laugh, and your overall ability to convince people that you were older than the high school junior that you actually were. Needless to say, you accepted many a shot and beer that night, nearly broke half of Jackie’s mom’s outdoor patio furniture, and snored peacefully next to me as I drove us both home later that night.
There was also my engagement party most recently where you hugged Aaron and I forcefully and often, whispering in our ears how much you loved us. There was the trip to the lake with mom’s coworkers where you learned to love Crown Royal, and rallied harder than mom (not like it’s hard). And, of course, the 4th of July in San Francisco, where we drank all the margaritas Hard Rock Café could serve, and still I was the only one struggling to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge the next day.
I write all of this not to say you’re a lush.
[Though maybe you are? Just a little bit?]
I say it to show that some of my favorite memories with you involve a little bit [or a lot bit] of alcohol. You’ve always been smart about it, and I’m thankful for that. [The last thing any of the people in your life need is one more reason to worry about you.] And you’ve always had fun. And when you’re having fun, you bring such joy to everybody else’s life. You make me laugh until happy tears pool in the corners of my eyes and my sides ache. You have this effect on everybody – even without a little bit of alcohol in you And because of that, I welcome your turning 21. It’s about time you legally enjoyed a beer.
If there’s any time in your life when you deserve a break, when you deserve to kick back with a beer, when you deserve to have fun – it’s right now. And it really fucking sucks that you’re not able to do that. But the party will be that much bigger and that much better when you get home. We’ll have 21 years and 6 months of catching up to do and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll do it right. I promise you that it will be the time of your life.
Until then, know that I love you; know that every day that you are gone, our family celebrates you and the sacrifices that you make. Today is just a little bit more special than the rest. Stay safe. I love you.
The next round’s on me, kid.