It dawned on me today that in two weeks my brother is turning 50. Fifty. Five zero. Ugh.
I can't comprehend this. I can't comprehend that five decades have past since he's been born. I can't comprehend that it has been more than 45 years since we were picked up in a beat-up station wagon with wood paneling by a woman with a bouffant hairdo and taken to preschool together. I'm sure my brother doesn't remember - because his brain has blocked out our childhood - but it is at this preschool where we would sit in a circle and inexplicably sing religious songs such as "Rise and Shine", a tune whose lyrics I can still recall to this day.
Can it actually be 40+ years since my brother and I fist fought over which show to watch before school because there was only one 12" TV in the house? (I wanted "Flipper" and he wanted "Rifleman". We obviously were gender stereotypes.) Could 40 Halloweens have come and gone since we dressed up in our Planet of the Apes costumes, filling bags and bags of candy from the apartment complexes on our block? I know logically that all that time has passed, but in remembering I can almost smell the sweet mixture of wax lips and Marathon bars and Pop Rocks as if the sugary stash is right in front of me.
It feels like yesterday and yet it feels like it was someone else's life when I think of myself on the handlebars of my brother's Schwinn racing down the hills of our city. I remember our summers growing up, yet the memories are like spider webs in my fingers. I see us lounging at the public pool with the other campers eating watermelon Jolly Rancher sticks and thinking we were so 1970s cool. I can still feel the terror of being forced off the high diving board by the counselors who were barely out of puberty while I watched my brother dive in fearlessly. I can clearly recall fist fighting with him through the volleyball net while those same camp counselors in their knee-high white socks and Converse sneakers tried to break us up. I think my brother got the better of me because I had to keep one hand on my tube top, though I'm sure I got some good punches in.
Fifty - this is about the age our grandparents were when they took my brother and me in because our mother began hearing and seeing things that no person should ever have to experience. This means that if my brother and I went back in time to this point, my grandparents would be our contemporaries! The knee-jerk reaction to this is depressing because when we were little they seemed old. But now seeing their lives through my adult lens I realized they weren't old. No, it wasn't that all. Instead, they were parents who were burdened and tired and oh so very heartbroken watching their daughter suffer while there was nothing they could do to help.
Though years and years have passed, the feeling I can turn to my big brother for all things scary stays with me - whether it was his fighting off the bully on the block who tried to kiss me, the loneliness of being left out and his including me, or knowing that he was the only one who could calm our mother down when she was most irrational.
You don't feel the passage of time. It just washes over you silently, like water over glistening rocks. And like a boat on that water, you (and your husband and friends and brother) are brought farther and farther from shore until before you know it you are so close to the horizon all you can do is look back at the people and memories left behind and sing:
This is the end of my story, story
This is the end of my story, story
Everything is hunky dory, dory
Children of the Lord