Today was my niece’s christening.
As I watched the priest splash a few drops of water on her head, I couldn’t help but feel surprised that this was my brother’s daughter. My brother, the one who gained notoriety in elementary school for flashing my friends, is someone’s father. He has a wife and a house. He is now a grown man…but despite this, I still see him as my little brother. In fact, I would have difficulty describing him to a sketch artist, because I still see the 4-year old version of him in my mind. Of course, his undying love for fruit snacks makes this a lot easier.
In some ways, I can’t help but be envious of my brother. While straight As and general over-achievement were demanded of me by my mother, he was rewarded with new Transformers for bringing home a report card of mostly Cs and Ds. He received exciting gifts like new bikes and skateboards on his birthday, while I received educational gifts. My mother always told me that I would be successful, and that we shouldn’t “expect much” from my brother. It was almost guaranteed that my life would somehow be better than his.
To this day, I am not sure what to make of that. Sure, I’ve received a fancy education, while my brother dropped out of high school (this was devastating to me). And I’ve travelled quite a bit more than him. I’ve lived in several major cities, while he hasn’t left Central PA. My job is more impressive. Overall, my life is pretty great and I am really happy.
Then again–my brother has his own family. His wife is kind, smart, and hardworking. Their house is cute and stylish. And his daughter has two parents. Everything is going the way it is supposed to happen.
On the other hand, nothing in my life has gone the way it was “supposed to happen.” All of the seminal moments were tainted by disappointment and loss. Before you decide that I must be wallowing in self-pity tonight, I will assure you that I generally feel good about where I am and where I am going. Most importantly, I have Dylan. She is smart and funny. I really couldn’t have a more amazing child. And I am so glad that she exists. But she will never have a father. We will most likely never add a male to our family of two. This is partially because I have tendency toward getting wrapped up with drunks and miscreants. But more importantly, I cannot allow anyone less than amazing to be a parent to my magical daughter. My mom’s own whirlwind tour through 6 husbands and countless boyfriends has made me wary.
I am saddened by this realization, even if it is not necessarily a bad thing. I am raising Dylan with the help of my parents, and this provides a more stable, positive family life than anything my brother and I had while we were growing up. I realize that a father is not always necessary.
A few days ago, I was driving to work, thinking about all sorts of random things. I remembered that my Emusic downloads reset for the month on July 21. “Hmmm…is something else happening on that day? Because that date really stands out to me…” I thought about my work calendar. No. Out-of-town visitors? No. And then realized what was happening on July 21: the 7 year anniversary of Ryan’s death. I was surprised by the ease with which I had forgotten this…the day when everything in my life changed forever…only to be altered even more a few months later when Dylan was born.
If I could travel back in time and save Ryan, of course I would. But since that seems impossible, I can only find comfort in the knowledge that everything has worked out well. For one, I became a better person. I finally learned to truly live my life. I stopped being sad and angry about the past, and began to embrace the present and the future. I am fairly certain that eventually Ryan and I would have gone our separate ways, and that would have been an ugly process. This would have been terrible for Dylan, possibly worse than never meeting her father. And of course, I worry that Ryan may have never been able to actually get his life together…or at the very least, it would have been a long and agonizing road that would have taken its toll on all of us.
And so, in a roundabout way…I guess I am saying that it is easy to be envious of my brother’s seemingly perfect life, even when I know that my own story is pretty great.