I’ve been writing this post in my head for 364 days. I’ve been writing it in many forms but every time I sit down to actually write it, nothing comes. It started with no intro, it started with Dear #$!#$ Baby, it started with Dear Daver. One for me, one for the kid to learn about his uncle, one for my brother. It was a timeline of events of the week. It was a description of who he was. It was an introspective of how I handled (or didn’t handle) the grief I was left with.
While I think all those things still need to be written, I feel like this just needs to be a reflection of the past year. And someday I’ll muster up the courage to tell the whole lot of stories that need to be told. Even with that being said, I’m finding it hard to find the words to say the things I’m not sure to say.
I just cannot figure out how to say what’s in my heart and been rolling in my head since February 24, 2013.
I’ve started and restarted and been distracted and poured a drink and deleted and began again. Repeat.
365 days ago, I got that late night call that immediately sends your stomach into free fall. At that time, I had two remaining grandparents, both in their 90s. My head went there. Never in my most horrible of nightmares could I have imagined that my dad’s voice would be the one to tell me that my brother had been in a car accident and died.
The following two weeks are a blur, with pockets of crystal clear memories that make it seem like it was last week, not last year. The tears, the stories, the heartache, the rekindled friendships, the 700+ people that came to pay their respects. The snow that fell in the cemetery as bagpipes played. The warmth of love, the chill of air. A reception that could be held nowhere but the bar he worked at, where the atmosphere was as much a party as it was a place to mourn. The five stages of grief all at once, the stories of the “visits” he was making, the dream of this actually not being real life.
My brother was reckless. My brother could rarely keep a schedule. If I was late (which I always am), hewas later. He blew off plans, he slept all day. He was an avid fisherman and I’m pretty sure he would have spent his life in a bass boat if given the opportunity. He had a temper. He was personable. He was funny. So #$!#$ funny. Aside from the negative things I just listed, I am hard-pressed to think anyone could say worse about him. He was a great listener, wanting to know about you but seldom giving up information about himself. Which is probably why he was what seems to be St. Paul’s favorite bartender.
Judging from the turnout to his memorial services, he made an impact on a lot of people. I kept making the joke that I’d be lucky if 50 people showed up to my memorial service – and 70% of them would be family, 10% friends and the rest making sure I was gone. Meanwhile, people just kept streaming into his, sharing memories or stories of how he touched their lives.
We didn’t talk every day. Not even every week. I haven’t lived in Minnesota since 2005, really since 2000. If I came home and wanted to see him, it pretty much had to be Christmas Day or I would have to go to the bar. So it makes sense that so many of my memories are tied to those. I dreaded Christmas this year, for sure. I try to be a bad-ass about going to the bar now, but emotion strikes when you walk through the door and his portrait is there, right where he should be standing. It’s easy to separate myself from things when I live halfway across the country. Even though he crosses my mind all the fricking time, it’s also easy to forget he’s gone. I didn’t have constant interaction. I often didn’t see him more than twice a year. In my head, I can pretend he just hasn’t texted me in forever.
Which leads me down a crazy, weird path of jealousy. I met a continuous stream of people that saw him every day, that will feel a void every day, that would significantly recognize his absence in life. There was a good bit of this past year where I was angry about that. I thought it wasn’t fair. I thought only our family should be feeling this type of void. As the year has gone on, and I made a few extra visits home, I realized that maybe those people needed him. I – and the rest of my family – had him unconditionally. Maybe his efforts were better left in other places. It doesn’t necessarily fill the void that I have left, but I have come to find it comforting that he may have helped many others.
My brother Dave was able to find humor and laughter in everything. He wasn’t perfect, but he made his life seem easier than I made mine. He made it about others, not himself. He made it about fun, not stress. His smile was contagious. He was positive where I am a consistent pessimist. I feel like he embraced the moments he was given and lived them. My uncle gave a sort-of-eulogy to the bar staff that I was honored enough to hear and while the details of it are foggy, the main sentiment has stuck with me. To live a little more like Dave every day. I’ve since continuously asked myself “What Would Daver Do?” with the addendum to be a little less reckless. And maybe less eighth grade pipe bombs in porta-potties.
I found the most dread in Christmas and today, the anniversary. I’m not sure if I expected more or less, but at this moment of writing, today is just another day. I’m crying more because I’m forcing myself to write this, but would it be a different day if I wasn’t trying to put words to it? I have thought about my brother in one way or another for 365 and counting. The events of a year ago became a learning opportunity, a chance to change how I see life, a chance to switch my attitude, a decision to live better.
And to keep asking myself WWDD?
I miss you, bro. Every day.