Soon, four months will have passed since the day I lost my brother. He was granted 727 months on this planet. Right now, the four months without him seem more of a lifetime than the 727 months with him. I can't explain that. Let me just say that missing someone appears to be more time consuming than not missing them.
I suppose if I were to scrutinize my writing, and apply labels that I so often see applied to other people's writing, I would probably fall into the scurrilous category of sentimental writing. I don't think that I ever understood what a critic was trying to project when he or she labeled someone's book or poetry or newspaper article "sentimental." What I do know is that it isn't intended to be a compliment. I've heard the use of sentiment described anywhere between a pejorative and a cardinal sin. So maybe that's not really a good thing for me, if you subscribe to the indecency of sentiment, especially when the next most used tool in my writing belt is sarcasm. If sentiment is my hammer, sarcasm is my saw.
Regardless, here goes.
Early morning on the beach is my favorite time. It's a great time to walk: the waves break more gently; the gulls and waders and shore birds scurry and swarm in anticipation of breakfast. Squadrons of pelicans soar overhead to their daily destination somewhere westward. People are more scarce but more alive. So I followed the pelicans and headed west where Destin rose like a mirage in the middle distance.
A lady popped out of her condo with a dog on a leash. As she neared, I could see the wizened muzzle of the old pooch and I thought how the older a dog gets the more special he becomes. The old fellow may have looked at my wizened muzzle and thought the same thing. Like myself, he was still game for early morning beach exercise, even if it made both of us pant a little.
A couple strolled leisurely just at the edge of the water, perusing more than walking. Speaking softly in the way that only people who have earned the gold standard of comfort with one another can speak. Even in silence, they communicated.
A gentleman sat in a sling-type beach chair, puffing hard on the last couple of inches of a fat, aromatic cigar and laser focused on something intriguing in the vast emerald waters before him.
But what caught my full attention was the sight of two brothers walking toward me. I guessed them to be five or six years apart. The older one was probably 13 or 14...the younger, maybe 8 or 9. Definitely brothers...similar facial features, same hair color. But those details were dwarfed by their brotherhood. Their closeness. An obvious emotional bond, supported by genes and blood but fused by love. No way, you say. No way could you see all of that in the ten or fifteen seconds you had to observe them. No. Way.
The older brother had his arm around the shoulders of the younger boy who sported a set of earbuds but was still dialed into his older brother's excited stream of chit-chat. Theirs was a comfortable embrace: simultaneously protective, comforting, loving, and, for lack of a better term: natural. They marched along in quick time, the older boy subconsciously shortening his steps to compensate for the younger one's shorter legs. Their eyes virtually shone with contentment. Whatever they shared was good and fun and full.
Needless to say I pushed fifty years aside and imagined myself in the role of the older brother and my recently lost sibling in the role of the younger one. For just a few moments, it was 1960, and me and Buddy were on Daytona Beach under blue skies and a much younger sun, and we were walking together connected at the hip planning our day of battling the waves, building sand castles, and looking for shells. We were talking about things that made sense to only us. Things that were uniquely sibling proprietary. I had my arm around his shoulders and we were close. And, for those few moments, I had a brother again and I felt his sunburned skin and I saw his tousled blonde hair and I heard his excited jabbering. I shortened my steps so that we could travel down that beach in brotherly synchronization. I didn't want to lose the rhythm, the sweet cohesion. In 1960, life had no limits and time had no boundaries. And brothers were forever.
But back to this morning....
I turned when I knew the two compadres were well past me and took a quick snapshot. I wanted to remember this morning. And the moment. As they faded into the distance I had some hopes and prayers for them. I hoped the older brother never got tired of putting his arm around the shoulders of his younger brother. I hoped the younger brother always felt good and safe and uplifted in his older brother's presence. I hoped the connection they had on this beautiful, sun-filled morning on this wind-swept beach would be carried away with them wherever they went and whenever they needed a memory. I hoped that nothing would ever come between them, that they would never feel self-conscious in displaying love and affection, that they would always be best friends, that they would always put all pettiness aside. I prayed that they would remember this day forever and that God would give them at least another 727 months together. At least.
It was a good walk with an unexpected but well appreciated God gift.
Call it sentimental if you like. But you know what? Sometimes, doggone it, just sometimes, you just flat out miss yesterday. And the ones you love. Especially those you loved and lost. Sometimes sentiment is the best tool in your writing belt because it lets you build the memory to your specifications.
But sometimes you just miss your brother.