Tag Archives: #brothers

The Night Before

10 Sep

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The Night Before it was beautiful.

It was September. It was the 10th. It was my brother’s birthday. We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant on Third Avenue. I ordered Penne Pomodoro after learning that the Spaghetti Bolognese I really wanted was made with veal and pork. We sat at a table for 9 people that included my parents, my husband, my cousin, my aunt, my uncle, my brother. My husband and I were only a family of 3 at the time and we toted our toddler son everywhere. It was a non-event. And yet, it was monumental because it was The Night Before the world changed.

We stood on the sidewalk of Third Avenue, looking up at the sky. It was painted with pinks and purples, and tones of burnt orange. It was still warm outside even though it was mid-September in New York. We all remarked on the perfection of the evening.

And then it was gone.

We remember the most meaningless details of time because they precede those that are the most horrific. That birthday dinner is etched in my mind, its details engrained, the seating chart and round table at the back right corner, still vivid. That small stretch of time we all looked up at the sky. We record moments of normalcy because they ground us, because we yearn to get them back, because we wish to just exist in a time when things are so routine we remember choosing Penne Pomodoro over Spaghetti Bolognese in what might otherwise be another tiny decision to forget over a lifetime of countless tiny decisions. And we want that night, that moment, that simplicity back.

The next day the sky was cloudless, clear, blue, until it turned thick and acrid from jet fuel, airplane debris, and the unthinkable spontaneous combustion of two buildings that graced New York City’s skyline for my entire life, their contents, and the lives of nearly 3000 people and their families. It went on like this for days, the smoke downtown visible from the park in the East 70s where I pushed my son on a swing. He had no idea how his life had changed slightly after 8 am just days before. He had no idea he was about to inherit a world I had never contemplated. His sky was still blue.

Perhaps our children are better for not knowing The Night Before, what they are missing, what simplicity might have graced their days. My sons sleep soundly in the world they inhabit, not aware of What Might Be and What Might Have Been. I wish it was different. But it is not. The best I can hope for are meaningless moments, simplicity, and a lifetime of clear, beautiful skies.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BROTHER!

10 Sep

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I wanted a sister like nobody’s business but my parents, people that they were, wouldn’t let me choose.

My brother was born, premature and ailing, on September 10th, not that I recall anything about it, being a baby myself at the time.

My first memory in life was my birthday three months after he arrived. My mother gave me a big, wrapped box and inside I found a tiny piano. Each key, when pressed, played a familiar Disney song.

“This is a birthday present from your little brother, Jonathan.” He was still in the hospital at the time. We didn’t really know each other that well yet.

But, I remember–very clearly–saying and thinking “that’s so nice of him! He is so nice!”

Not much has changed since then. He thrived, physically, exceeding all of his doctors’ expectations, and eventually came home where I would torment him, and dress him up as that sister I never had, and call him Joan, and smother him. He grew up to lead a tiny Black Jack ring in our basement, ruin my car in a series of mishaps after I entrusted it to him freshman year of college, and learn all the words to every James Taylor song against his will because I was the first one with a driver’s license and he had no choice as my hostage I mean passenger. But he always remained the “nice” generous person I thought him to be when I was that little girl with the tiny piano. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that my birthday gift was never that piano. It was him.

Thirteen years ago, we went out to dinner to celebrate my brother’s birthday with our family at a restaurant on the Upper East Side. It was a gorgeous night in New York City. The sky was streaked salmon and orange and yellow. I can still see myself standing on the sidewalk on Third Avenue, staring up at that sky and admiring it.

The next day the world changed. Thankfully, my brother still hasn’t.

Happy birthday to my soulful, sweet, handsome, devoted, kind, hilarious and all around perfect baby brother. Thank goodness you came just as you are. Who needs a sister when I have you.

xo,

Lisa

Deductions

17 Apr

My brother and I took my mom out for lunch for her birthday. Somewhere between blowing out the candle and asking for the check, my brother excused himself to use the bathroom.  My mom whirled around, seizing the opportunity made available by his convenient need to empty his bladder:

“Lisa, we have to find him a wife. He’s getting KILLED on taxes. No dependents.”

I can’t tell you why he’s still single. He is downright adorable. He’s sweet, kind, charming. He’s hilarious too. We laugh at all the same things (some of which are terrible, leading to uncomfortable public situations). We still have that connection we did as children: we will zero in on the same thing and laugh uncontrollably — typically the kind that produces no sound but does cause endless tears, heaving shoulders, and sore abs. For a period of time after that, we can no longer look at each other without breaking into hysterics. Often this can last anywhere from 1 week to 3 decades.  We are ageless.

More important, I have finally forgiven him for not being a girl. I desperately wanted a sister. He seems to bear no scars for all the times I dressed him in a raincoat, put his hair in pigtails, and called him “Joan.”

“You’re threatening his masculinity!” My mother would shout. That didn’t stop me. If he wanted to play with me and my friends, he was going to be the little sister. Or the dog. That worked too.

He also doesn’t seem to hold against me the countless times I told him things tasted like watermelon because I knew he would eat them.

“Here! Try this chicken gizzard. It tastes just like watermelon! It’s delicious.” And then I would hold my breath and wait. He did not disappoint, reaction-wise, although the chicken gizzard was the last time he took that bait.

He was a great brother, still is. I don’t know many who could have survived having me for a sister. We hail from a colorful family of strong personalities and thankfully, he is one of them. If he was just some dopey wallflower, for instance, he never would have let my mom and me create the now defunct “pleasemarrymyson.com” in 2010. Although he was definitely mortified.

Perhaps he’s single because I was just too much to handle. Or perhaps he’s single because he’s looking for someone like his sister to laugh with until tears roll down his cheeks and his stomach aches. Who isn’t?

Regardless, my mom has entrusted me with this mission.

“So, Mom, you’re saying you want him to get married just so he can give less money to the government?”

“Yes. That’s what I’m saying.”

And then we laughed. ‘Til we cried. Because she’s pretty funny too.

**If you don’t hear from me within a week, call the cops because my brother killed me for publishing this post.