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My brother Peter would have turned 50 today. There would have been a huge party around the swimming pool of a rented house near the beach. Loud music, beautiful people, too much to drink.
But he didn’t quite make it to 44. He lived his whole life in half the amount of time most of us do. His life was lived as if it were a movie. Everything was dark or in Technicolor, there was never anything in between. He loved it out here by the ocean. Tanning oil (not sunscreen), a beach chair that ensured his feet never touched the sand, beers in coolers, girls in skimpy bathing suits, and more beautiful people.
I never quite qualified as a beautiful person, this was a badge of external honor. You needed to dress just so, party just right, know the people I never seemed interested in knowing.
My brother Peter would have turned 50 today. I am 51. It’s been 6 years since he was there to orchestrate his own party. I now need to party for him. So tonight I will celebrate his birthday almost as he would have wanted it. There won’t be a lot of loud music and we will have to stand in for the beautiful people. But there will be my three children, my wife and assorted members of her family.
My brother was the last of my immediate family. Everything I had left from the first family I knew. When my parents passed away the sadness lasted many months. When Peter left, the sadness never went away. While I chase behind the joy and sorrow he lived with. My edges are more rounded. The waves less turbulent.
Peter and I grew up surfing together. He claims he was better than me. I guess that’s mostly true. I still do pretty well for my age. Now my son Alex surfs too. Being with Alex at 6:30 am on a windless morning, with the surface of the ocean as smooth as glass, sitting patiently about 50 yards off the beach is a gift from my brother.
I can sit on the beach staring off into the hazy sun for hours. I don’t need to read or to talk. The waves, seagulls and dunes keep my company. He would have been here with me today. We would have talked, a rich life held together by the seems that were often close to tearing. I would have done almost anything to keep him alive, but it was not my choice to make. It was his alone.