March 23. Throughout my childhood and first years of my young adulthood, it was a day to celebrate. But for more than two decades, it has been a day to recall. A day to remember. A day to fight back the tears that inevitably want to come.
It’s my dear “faux brother’s” 46th birthday. Unfortunately, Steven’s not here to observe it. He died a week after turning 22. To me, this is the very definition of patently unfair. He was such an awesome guy. He was sweet. He was funny. And, in the year or so before his death, he was downright adorable. (If you’ve seen Pretty in Pink, think Andrew McCarthy …)
He was my cousin, and a distant one at that (his mother and my mother were first cousins). But there was nothing distant about our relationship. We were the perfect siblings – minus the trappings of the rivalry that is commonplace between brothers and sisters. Our family jokingly called us “the twins” because we were born just a few hours shy of four months apart.
A few weeks ago, I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in forever. I used to call him “Duuuuuude” as a greeting. And he would comically respond with, “Saaaay, blood.”
I shouldn’t complain. I was lucky enough to get to grow up with him. The first six years were normal enough.
Having known each other since infancy and both of us having been only children, we were the best of buds. Then, an undiagnosed case of strep throat changed everything just as he was turning 7.
It attacked his major organs and shut down both of his kidneys. (One later regained function overnight and he became a case in medical textbooks.) Before the miraculous occurrence, he had been given two weeks to live. Two weeks.
He lived 15 more years.
He didn’t complain though he endured more than anyone, much less a child, ever should. I think partly because of his plight and partly because our parents were the way they were, we were both spoiled rotten. We got a lot of the same things at Christmas (yes, I was an incurable tomboy) and we always celebrated birthdays together.
When we were 9, I was supposed to get a brother. Shortly after my mother miscarried, his mother discovered she was pregnant. At 10, he got a brother. He promised to “share” him – and did.
He was funny and sweet and one of the best friends I ever had. And, all these years later, I still miss him.
If we really can see into this world from the next, I hope he can see how much. Happy birthday, duuuuuude.