To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.
— Clara Ortega
Today is Nate’s birthday, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about him. He is two years and twelve days older than I am, and so as far back as I can remember, he’s been part of my memories. Early on, we had what can politely be described as a shitty childhood. Details aren’t necessary, I don’t think, but I will say that, being older, he got the worst of it, and to this day it makes me cry to think of it.
When our dad got us out of that situation, we were (I think – Nate would know better) 3 and 5, and we had to be separated for a while, because my dad couldn’t take care of us both while he finished college. Just after I turned five, and my dad met the woman who is now my mom, we finally got to be together again, and we stayed that way until we went our separate ways after college 16 or so years later.
We did not always get along growing up, and the number of times one of us got in trouble for something the other did are too numerous to count, as are the number of times we combined our powers to make extra-mischievous mischief. But even more numerous are the times I’ve seen him stand up for me, take care of me, do something nice for me, or just be there for me.
- He never acted like he didn’t know me in the hallway in high school, despite his being much more popular than I was and the embarrassment I must have caused him with my constant, unrequited crushes on his friends.
- He bought me beer when I was underage.
- Once, when I was learning to drive stick and he already knew how, mom gave me the keys when Nate and I were going to the movies. I knew he was pissed and that he’s prone to mumbling under his breath, and so before I pulled out of the driveway I said, “I would appreciate it if you’d talk to me nicely when I do something wrong,” and he did, and I learned to drive stick.
- When I lost my hearing, he was the first frantic phone call I made that morning – even though he was in North Carolina.
- When I got my wisdom teeth out, I was disoriented coming out of the anesthesia. They put me in a recovery room with a sign over the door that said, “How did I get in here?” which made me cry because I didn’t know how I got in there. Nate was in the room when I told the surgeon why I was crying, and when the surgeon laughed at me, Nate yelled at him.
- Before the Princess (my niece) was born, he made sure they bought a baby monitor that lit up when there was noise, so that I would always be able to baby-sit without worrying I wouldn’t know when she needed me.
In my family, I sometimes get a lot of attention because of my hearing loss and because I went to law school and passed the bar, and blah blah blah. I think he is often overlooked, and that makes me sad. He’s been married to an amazing woman for five years and they are the parents of the two funniest, most beautiful kids I know, the Princess and the Conductor, who are three-and-a-half and two, respectively, and who I adore beyond all reason.
I look at the four of them and I feel such gladness that he found such happiness. He is an excellent dad and a very devoted husband, and there are times I’d trade everything I have accomplished for what he and the missus have together.
He’s struggling right now, but I hope he knows that it won’t always be like this, and that the things he does have are priceless. Happy birthday, Bubba. I love you.
(If this post had a soundtrack, it would be this song.)