i knew yesterday was going to be one of those days well before i actually knew why. when i checked my cell phone at 9am and found three missed calls, i had a feeling. two of those numbers were the mishmash of numbers i've come to associate with my brother's calling card. the other was from my mother. and she left this message.... nearly singing, really.
good mooooooorning! it's your muuuther. i don't know if your bruuuther has called you yet. if not...... you should caaaall me. i luuuuve you!
my brother's not going to iraq.
my brother got himself transfered to an air force base on the kuwaiti coast, where he'll be working as a paralegal. for the duration of his deployment. nowhere near a convoy, nowhere near a roadside bomb. he won't need a flack jacket. he might get carpel tunnel, you know, from working at a computer. he leaves thursday. i think my mom cried for almost an hour after getting this news. i didn't cry nearly that long, but i did suddenly feel like someone had finally loosened the invisible rubber band around my lungs that has been keeping me from taking full breaths ever since this deployment thing became real. and that first email i get from him once he's moved, maybe then i'll take in one very long, deep breath and really exhale.
but it was a call about another younger brother that is the real story, even as happy as i am with the news about mine.
b's phone rang at about 11 last night. he looked at the number, not recognizing it, and then looked at me. for a second i could tell he thought about not answering - but not for the usual reason, that he thought it was a wrong number or something. i think because he was afraid of who was on the other line. but he answered.
i turned off the television. and the silence as he listened, and drew in that breath so sharply that told me what i already knew, was so so heavy around us.
i've made a lot of calls for my brother in our lives together, announcing the birth of his first-born when he and his wife were still wide-eyed over the little guy being the most memorable. but the idea of having to make that call, the one telling a friend of 20 years that your younger brother is dead - that is a phone call i never, ever want to be tasked with. it's a fear that has been terribly real to me, with my brother going to iraq. and on the day i found out that won't happen, to know that jonathan is making that call for his younger brother - the enormity of that pain is not lost on me.
and so here i sit, mozart's requiem and the smell of roasting potatoes filling the apartment, my bell's appropriately at my side, and tears in my eyes. i'm thinking of our best friend, again on a hastily-planned flight from ethiopia. i imagine him staring out the window, unable to sleep, trying unsuccessfully to push down his grief with wonderful memories (isn't that what we're all trying to do?) ... i'm thinking of jason's parents, of his wife. i'm thinking of the army of friends that have marched to the front lines of his hospital room, only to stand helpless before him. but i have to tell you, i can't stop thinking about jonathan. my grief, b's grief, pales next to the reality of bittersweet beautiful moments in jonathan's life he'll see without his younger brother. it's a reality i've occasionally, briefly considered in the middle of the night, peering over the edge of that cliff from my bed, b sleeping soundly beside me, hoping i don't wake him with my crying. it's a terrible, terrible reality.
last night, though, that's not what i did as b slept. instead, i pressed the side of my face, cool and a little wet from tears for jason, against his warm back. i could hear his heart, and all i could do was softly, in rhythm with its beats, whisper adamant directions - don't stop. don't stop. please heart. don't stop. don't ever, ever stop.