Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Memorium

"Life isn't fair."

I remember hearing this phrase often in my childhood and while I have almost always known the truth of it, I wonder now if it wasn't so much a way to chide us into silence as it was a warning.

Life isn't fair. It will not always wait for you to get back up again to kick you once more,  it will not always punish the bad when or how you think they should be punished and it will not always let you hold onto the things you hold dear.

I think, on some level, we should be telling our children that every day.

Life isn't fair. It doesn't play by the rules and you need to be ready to deal with what that means. Or as much as one can.

Joel Nelson (1985 - 2013)
For my brother, "Life isn't fair" meant so many things we didn't even know and can only wish we understood.

For my family, it means losing a son and brother and never having a proper reason why.

For me, it means rekindling an old friendship only to lose him in a way that cannot be repaired.

Last night, on January 30th, my brother took his own life.

I don't think I will ever  be able to wrap my mind around that--certainly not now. Death has always been something that perplexed me and more than ever, I know I will never understand it.

Now those of us left behind are charged with spreading the word and preparing for the funeral--which in itself is... I hope we can think of everyone... I would hate to leave someone out who would want to know he's gone... even if they weren't close anymore.

I don't know everything about the death (I have the feeling my father did not want to relay everything over the phone)--and what I do know I don't know if it's appropriate to share... or that I want to. All in all, I suppose the details of it are hardly important. The point is he is gone... and I have quite literally lost the voice to speak on it.

I suppose that's what happens when you cry too much with a recovering sore throat. I don't much recommend grieving when you're sick.

I have no words about Joel's death--not yet, not really. But I can speak to his life.

We didn't always get along--I realize that's fairly usual for siblings but our troubles ran a little deeper than most--doesn't seem very important now. It's interesting what we're able to forgive and forget when it's put into the bigger perspective.

I'm very lucky, I think, that I reached a peace with our fights before his death.

When we were very young, he was my best friend. We didn't like to admit it to our school friends--society had taught us that we were supposed to bicker constantly and so while in the public eye, we did.

But at home where the word "cool" was foreign, he was the best at making me laugh.

His room was next to mine and on sleepless nights we'd often stay up talking--from excitement about Christmas morning to uncertainty about school or friends.

We'd pile our family of stuffed animals into laundry baskets and drive them around the carpet or push them down the stairs into the wall in a crash test dummy-like experiment (much to our mother's irritation). You won if none of your animals fell out. This required a great deal of packing with pillows and blankets. Sort of a soft-cushiony alternative to the seat belt.

We slid down the steep stairs at our grandparent's old house until our stomachs were red with rug burn. We would use notebooks to write line-by-line stories when we should have been listening in church.

He is responsible for my love of Ninja Turtles--or really any 80's cartoon not directly target at girls. I wanted to be just like him. I looked up to him completely... I don't think I ever told him that. I'm hoping, at some point when we were younger, he knew that.

I really hope he knew that.

We drifted apart sometime at the start of high school and never really fully reconnected until after I graduated from college.

He thought I was spoiled and I thought he was self-centered. We were both wrong.

Joel had a passion for music--he introduced me to Punk when the girls in my school were shouting praises to Spice Girls.

He taught me how to spit or burp from the diaphragm. He was the reason I ever saw any John Hughes movie or grew up with a crush on John Cusack.

He loved film and would often recommend movies I'd never even heard of but were all cinematically astounding in one aspect or another.

He would often do things simply just for the laughs--he'd thrive on entertaining those around him. He seemed to stand outside of life and be the running commentary more often than seemingly like he was a part of it. He wore his facial hair--Mario mustache and all without a touch of irony.

His gift for humor overflowed into his writing and creative endeavors and as we got to know each other again, we toyed with the idea of collaborating on some kind of film project at some point in our lives. I would like to find a way to still, in some way, make that happen.

I cannot watch Star Wars without thinking of him--he introduced me to the extended universe. He taught me how to wrestle (not fairly, mind you) and how to speed through Mario 3 with warp whistles. I was the player 2 to every co-op game created for early game consoles--or his opponent in Street Fighter and Tekken. We spent hours on Golden eye for the N64 (which frankly is still, in my opinion, the best multi-player FPS to play against your friends).

I would never have watched James Bond without him. I would never have understood that there's a difference between mayonnaise and miracle whip. I would never have roller bladed or climbed trees.

I want it to be some dumb joke--like Tom Sawyer where he'll just fall out of the rafters any moment and after yelling "How could you do that", we'll all laugh and continue on.

They had a lot in common, come to think of it...

But my brother, my friend, will not be attending his own funeral just to hear what others say about him. He will not be blasting music from his room when I get home. He will not be eating strawberry rhubarb pie from the dish with a fork or insisting that there was no good cheese other than 'cheddar'. I will not be able to talk to him about the absurdity of our family, or play a game of pool, or drive him home to make sure he got there safely after we'd been out.

I have our last conversation on my cellphone--it's brief because he had a new phone so there isn't much history... but I've taken pictures of them and emailed them to myself fearing that somehow I will lose them.

We texted on his birthday, January 4th. I thanked him for being my friend again, not just my brother. I said I wanted to hang out again just the two of us the next time I was in town.

And then four days later I recommended some comics I'd come across because he and I had started bonding over getting back into mainstream comics. I recommended the new Marvel Now: Avenger's Assemble, he told me I might like Saga.

I wish I'd finished it in time to talk with him about it.

I wish so many stupid things.

But now really I'm rambling and have already fallen to far too many cliches for this to be a proper tribute.

Maybe there is no proper tribute for him and I will end up trying for years to make something feel right that frankly never will... and it's not meant to.

I'm told the French phrase for "I miss you" translates more accurately to "You are missing from me." I feel when someone dies, that seems more accurate.

A part of me is missing. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to fill it.

I'm not unique in this case and that is both comforting and heartbreaking...

Joel, wherever you are, I hope you know you are so loved. I wish there was something I could have done to help. I wish I'd known you were feeling so lost. Whenever we spoke, you seemed like you were doing so much better and I'm sorry I didn't see through that.

Thank you for being my brother, and thank you for being my friend. I'm so glad I got to have you in my life, regardless how brief it was.

I love you. Forever and always.