Every year around this time, a little black cloud settles over my world. It's not voluntary, it's almost mandatory, and there is little I can do about it. It generally goes away after January 6th and things can get back to normal.
This January 6th is the 13 year anniversary of the day my brothers died. 13 years feels like a long time, and I suppose that's because it is a long time. Much of the time, Tom & Andy don't come up in our everyday conversation. As time's worn on, our memories have progressed to a place that doesn't constantly focus on what's not here. But when I close my eyes, I can still see them perfectly- sitting in their room, listening to depression rock and laughing, Tom making cookies in the kitchen (he was the best with peanut butter and pumpkin chocolate chip), Andy painting on his fancy, beautiful easel with oil paints... such a steady hand, blending colors seamlessly in the backdrop on his work... my favorite is the sunflower- bright yellow petals against a fading, brilliant blue sky. Rich, green leaves seem to wave at you as the flower watches from it's canvas.
Tom & Andy were wonderful brothers. There were some rough years in there with Andy being addicted to heroin. That devil dictated his every move and he hurt many people because of it. There was a lot of anger and sadness in our family because of it, and when he came back and asked for forgiveness, it hurts me to admit that it took me much longer than it should have to let him back in. Regardless of those years and his transgressions, Andy was the coolest. It wasn't even anything he did, it was his demeanor and the way he treated people. He was charismatic and charming, and maybe it was my adolescent naivety but he always made me feel like I was the coolest too.
Tom was brilliant. Really, he was brilliant. He could do anything as long as it made sense to him, and things like science and engineering made sense to Tom. He could stay up for hours and days on end, work the night shift at Amoco while finishing his chemical engineering degree at the U. and stil be the wittiest person on earth. I loved going to visit Tom when he was working at the gas station because he'd let me get a soda from the fountain for only the cost of the cup, lid, and straw. That was roughly a dime, at least that's all he'd charge me. He was always trying to protect me from the harsh realities of the world... pretending the coffee smell in his car was something he was hauling to the station and not his preferred morning beverage... I guess he always wanted me to think the best of him, and I did; whether he was showing me his 20 page test that was 1 problem long, trying so hard to tutor me-the untutorable- in geometry, or even going night boarding at Brighton.
Now they're gone, as they have been since 1999. But last year a miracle happened. On January 6th, 2011, my nephew was born, a little boy named Thomas Andrew. I knew he'd be born on the 6th, he had to be. And Thomas is going to be as brilliant and charming as his namesakes. He already is. A kid that can capture the attention of a room just by entering it, and he can't even walk yet. He's brought sunshine and joy to a day my family has dreaded for 13 years, and though the deep meaning of the day still looms and beckons depression, Thomas crawls in, flaps his arms and kicks his legs, slips you that smile and chases the depression back into the recesses from whence it came. Thomas has literally saved the day.
Thomas was here visiting with his parents for Christmas this year. My other youngest nephew, Zach: son of Ben, was over on Christmas Eve, playing with Thomas as they opened their Christmas Eve presents. As I watched them play I couldn't help but see my brothers in those two beautiful boys.