This post should’ve been written months ago, but given that today is Zach’s birthday, it seems like a good time to write about him.
He turned 23 today. I can still remember throwing coins into the fountains at Northgate Mall, wishing on each for a baby brother. I remember telling my parents that all I wanted was a baby brother. I dreamt of what it would be like to have a baby brother. Somewhere in my four year-old heart, I just knew that having a baby brother would be the best thing in the world.
Twenty-three years ago today, my dream came true. I begged my parents to name him Danny (in honor of my preschool boyfriend). Lost that battle, no hard feelings. From day one, he was just the best thing in the world. Our childhood was filled with games and laughter, and occasional screaming, hitting, pinching and biting. I think it’s fair to say that it was mostly positive though.
As we got older, it was harder to stay close. A five-year age gap meant that when I was interested in bringing a boyfriend to the house, Zach would have to give up his video games on the basement TV. As I went to college, he was just starting 8th grade. I hoped that we would somehow find a way to be really close again. I never wanted to have a brother who I only saw on holidays.
Two years ago today, Zach turned 21. He didn’t go out to a bar or have a party with his friends. We celebrated it in our mom’s hospital room with a cake and a few gifts. It was the last day she was with us mentally. He never complained or lamented the fact that his 21st wasn’t like you see in the movies. That day, I realized Zach had grown up.
Three days later, she passed away, and Zach once again showed just how grown up he was. I remember pulling into the church parking lot that day, dreading the idea of planning her funeral mass. Then I realized his car was parked there too. I was so relieved, but also surprised. Planning a funeral isn’t something a child should have to do, but he showed me once again that he was a grown up.
Watching how Zach handled himself during such a terrible time made me realize that our five-year gap had gotten a little smaller. Somehow, when I was busying myself with college, work, and a bunch of other things, he’d turned into a young man with his priorities set, and he made it clear that family was at the top of his list.
Zach can be critical of himself sometimes, but I wish he could see what I see: a kind, honest, smart, funny, handsome guy with so many opportunities ahead of him. He has my forever respect, and he will forever be my baby brother.