December 13, 2016

Darth Vader Piñata

Missing Amir's wit and wisdom today as I do every day, I wanted to share a few more glimpses into his exceptional mind.

This is from an email in February 2007, after he visited me in SF and we made one of the few bar bets I won over the years:
"I owe you five bucks because 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' was indeed performed by Frankie Valli, not Johnnny Mathis - I guess all that Rita Moreno and whiskey clouded my judgment at the Owl Tree bar.

I ran into about 300 rabid Lakers fans at the Oakland BART depot. L.A. stomped Golden State's ass at Oracle Arena, and I got to witness the hi jinx of drunken dipshits in outdated Kobe Bryant jerseys storming the train. Luckily, I didn't get shot at and got to the airport in time to witness two young lovers get in a MASSIVE fight at the security check-in. I chuckled to myself, gave thanks for my independence, and prepared for what would be a turbulent flight. It's snowing like a motherfuck in Reno, and the descent into the blizzard nearly caused me to puke up my cashews. We made it, though I made my neighbor uncomfortable by reading that addicting 9-11 book you gave me as we lurched about in the clouds."
And, from September 2010, just before I visited him in Portland:
"I feel like an asshole for leaving you an answering machine message filled with insensitive jokes. If I had a nickel for every time I put my foot in my mouth, I'd be filthy stinkin' rich. Mostly I was just hoping to make you smile.

Trivia is Tuesday night at 7:00. Again, I remind you that you are expected to help us win. Don't bother coming all the way out here if you can't tell me the minimum I.Q. for Mensa entry, the smallest Great Lake, and Valerie Harper's boyfriend's name on 'Rhoda.' Last time, the first prize was a Darth Vader piñata. I sulked the whole way home."

December 4, 2016

"I can't beat it..."

For as long as I can remember, I have lived very much inside my own head, deep in thought, constantly poring over ideas and feelings and insights without talking to another soul for hours (or even days) on end. Only one other person in my life shared this tendency toward living inwardly and that was Amir. He and I often talked about the good and bad points of living in one's own mind, being too cerebral and introverted, overthinking our feelings and intentions to an unhealthy extent.

Yesterday, during a long walk around Prospect Park on a cold, gorgeous day, I thought, "My brain must be tired of me." Then I considered how amused Amir would be by that idea and... here we go again... I longed to share it with him.

How has it been two years since I spoke to my darling brother? The days and weeks and months seem to drag on, when they are not flying by. That's the thing about grief: it fucks with time in a fascinating and utterly confounding way. It feels like yesterday that I last saw or spoke to Amir and sometimes it feels like it's been far longer than two years. I am completely gobsmacked by how often I reach for the phone to call or text him, even after 24 months of not being able to do that. I do this even MORE often with Jason, sometimes even stopping short of calling out to him from another room before being punched in the chest by the reality that I'm alone and he won't answer. Jason's absence from my life is intensely physical. Grief begets physical and emotional longing of an intensity that I never expected to feel in my life.

What else is there that fucks with the mind and heart like grief does? Nothing. There is pain, both physical and emotional, that most every human faces in his or her life. There is sadness and longing and disappointment and confusion and anguish. But none of it wreaks havoc on the mind and heart like deep grief does. None of it transforms who you are as a person down to your very core and uproots everything you once felt about life, love, longing and loss.

Last night, I saw the movie Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck as a young man who loses his brother while also suffering the aftermath of an earlier, horrific tragedy in his life. I don't remember the last time I was so moved by a film and a performance. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I managed to hold it together in the theatre (I've gotten pretty fucking good at not crying in public), but its poignancy affected me deeply.

Affleck's character's grief and pain are so crushing that you can see it physically in his eyes, his face and his body language before the film even reveals the magnitude of the loss he's endured. At one point, speaking of his grief, he repeats the line: "I can't beat it." Fucking hell, do I know that feeling. I don't think I've ever seen an actor convey the numbness, anger, misery and longing of grief in such a compelling and thoroughly authentic way. Give this brilliant actor an Oscar. Now.

You want a glimpse of what profound grief looks like? See this movie. And bring tissues.

November 22, 2016

Two Years

Today marks two years since our family's darkest day, the day we lost our beloved brother and son. I can't write much because I'm on a train from Bologna to spend a solo day in Venice. I'm so glad to be spending this difficult week with my sister and brother-in-law, to talk about you and remember you. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of you. Not a day goes by that I don't ache down to my bones to talk to you. Not a week goes by that I don't cry for you. We all miss you desperately. I will never, never get used to you not being here with us. I'd never want to. xo

October 7, 2016

Mr. Mojo Rising

Here's yet another peek inside Amir's uniquely astute mind, in the form of an email from 2014. I'd sent him a link to a Flavorwire story about Jim Morrison, in which it was noted that the three “sidemen” in The Doors got too little credit for their contributions, a fact I have always found unfortunate. As always, Amir took the discussion several steps further, adding his own illuminating take:
Funny, I heard 'Love Me Two Times' the other day and forgot how great it is, from an instrumental standpoint (lyrics disposable). I absolutely agree, Manzarek and Krieger deserve equal credit for being top-notch musicians. Not to mention their creativity - they wrote all of these now iconic melodies. Excellent songwriters/arrangers. Densmore was pedestrian at best, but he did have great sideburns.

Morrison had two things going for him, in this order: (1) good looks and (2) a unique baritone voice with decent range. One could argue his prowess as a hyper-literate, visionary lyricist/poet/mystic/pedophile and in a handful of songs this is true. Trouble is, more often than not he sounds pretentious and his affectation ridiculously theatrical. That's just me, though. Many worship him as a modern day Yeats or Sartre or whatever. His ego would have benefitted from a dose of self-deprecating humor now and then (see Lennon, John or Davies, Ray).

Interestingly, I read somewhere recently that the notoriously anti-war Morrison was the son of a Navy Admiral. His father's ship was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which started the Vietnam War.
My dad gets credit for introducing us to The Doors--he brought home their LP after going apeshit for the album version of "Light My Fire" (back in the days when FM radio would disappointingly play only the three-minute "single" and only the album rock station played the full version). I was particularly interested in Morrison's poetry and I shared my well-worn copy of a book of his poems with Amir, who proceeded to mark up specific lines with a highlighter and make notes in the margins. How I wish I still had that book! Perhaps I'd derive from it some deeper understanding of Amir's adolescent mind or infer some unintended significance, a la Heather Chandler's posthumously-highlighted copy of Moby Dick (for those who get the reference). ESKIMO.

September 29, 2016

On Sneakers and Spicoli

In recent months, I've noticed that Vans sneakers have become quite popular again, particularly the slip-on variety. (Well, I suppose they’ve never really gone out of style completely, but it seems I’m seeing them far more frequently lately.) Of course, they’re just one of a quadrillion little things that make me think of my sweet brother Amir every day.

Why Vans? Well, in spite of his advanced intelligence, Amir was slow to learn how to tie his shoes. (Ya think maybe because he had two older sisters who constantly did it for him??) Anyway, because of his having yet to acquire this skill, and probably due to the ubiquity at the time of slip-on Vans partly because of the popularity of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Vans being Spicoli’s sneaker of choice, Amir insisted on wearing slip-ons for much of his early childhood. That is, until later in the 80s, when high-top Nikes became the sneaker du jour for basketball-obsessed kids like my teenage bro. (And when Yael and I migrated to high-top Reeboks or LA Gear. Oh, but we were a stylish bunch.)

At back-to-school time, we’d pile into the station wagon and head to the miniature Vans store on Topanga Canyon that we all loved because it looked like a little surf shack. We’d squeeze into the tiny shop, where I’d choose the two-tone, lace-up Vans and Amir always made a beeline for the slip-ons. Then, like all the hip kids of the day, as soon as we brought home our pristine new sneakers, we all promptly colored in the waffle-like squares on the soles with different-colored pens. We were cool that way.

[I'm on the hunt for photos. Stay tuned.]

August 16, 2016

Olympics Wrap-up, Amir Edition

Browsing through some Gmail chats between Amir and I today and I found this gem from July 2012, in which we discussed and reviewed the opening ceremony of the London Olympics:

me: What'd you think of opening ceremony?
 prizant76: Bombast.
 me: Nicely put.
 prizant76: Mary Poppins was a nice touch.
me: Yes!
  And Mr. Bean.
prizant76: They should have done a tribute to Grand Moff Tarkin.
me: Ha!
prizant76: Or a sequence with Hugh Grant and a bunch of dancing hookers.
 me: George Michael in a restroom stall?
prizant76: Benny Hill.
me: A friend of mine joked that they should have had a Benny Hill hologram light the torch.
prizant76: A sped-up hologram backed by that goofy saxophone music.
me: They also should have had some kind of Monty Python tribute.
prizant76: Absolutely. Ministry of Silly Walks: Olympic Edition.
me: Or what was their Olympics-like thing? All-Git Olympics?
 prizant76: Upper Class Twit of the Year. One of my faves.
me: Don't forget SNL's "All-Drug Olympics" from the 80s
 prizant76: Or Martin Short as the synchronized swimmer.
Benny Hill! I'll never hear that goofy sax theme without thinking of Amir. We giggled like loons at that show when we were kids, though roughly 67% the jokes went over our heads. Amir never, ever failed to make me laugh, even in the shittiest of situations. He always had a witty, sarcastic or genuinely hilarious comment and he could snark with the best of them. I miss our silly banter and joking so much that I often comb through old emails and chats just to get a taste of his singular humor. I can only imagine the fun he'd have had with this crazy election cycle. (Oh, the Bernie jokes. I can almost hear them.)

August 3, 2016

The Journey

Today marks one year since my sweet love Jason left this world. I started this blog because I was desperate to make sure Amir was remembered for all the wonderful things he was. I intended this blog to be a place to remember and honor Amir, never anticipating it would become a home to grieve Jason as well.

What a year. I have learned so much about grief and the way the mind (or at least my meshuggene mind) works in this strange and difficult mode. I always believed (or assumed, since I'd never really been through it) that grief was merely the physical and emotional manifestation of missing someone you loved. It meant feeling sorrow and emptiness over your loss, feeling sorrow for what might have been. It meant missing that person at family gatherings and on holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.

But I always thought grief was relatively short-lived, something that got easier with time as you moved forward and missed the person less and less. The grieving process would go on longer for people who were dearer to you, but I believed it was a finite process.

I have learned that I'd been wrong all my life about what grief was. Not due to any fault of my own--I was fortunate enough not to know better until I was 43 years old and lost my beloved brother. True, I'd lost grandparents and a couple of uncles I loved. I cried for them and I missed them, but the sense of loss diminished as the months went on. That's what I thought grief was.

What I did not understand before was how grief would change me. I am not just grieving two people I loved very much, I'm also grieving the loss of myself. I am a different person from who I was before and I am actively grieving the woman I used to be. I miss her every day. I look at pictures of myself from before and I feel a sense of loss--I miss that woman who was untouched by grief and sorrow. She was much more relaxed, more focused and centered, more outgoing and easygoing, more fun to be around, less anxious and awkward. She had more love to give.

But now, she's more human. I'm more human having been through the most universal of human experiences--death and loss. I relate to others who have been through loss and I have a difficult time relating to those who haven't. I used to be them and now I envy them. How I wish I didn't.

I'm sure there are people who think I spend too much time thinking about my grief and that's why I'm not "moving on" (whatever the fuck that means) as I should. But they're wrong. I don't think about my grief. I think about the two beautiful human beings who are no longer here and what a fucking tragedy it is that their lives were cut so painfully short. I think about where they'd be right now, what they'd be doing, who they'd be, what they'd think of the election and world news and the heartbreaking thing that happened in season 4 of Orange Is the New Black (that's for Jason--he insisted I'd love the show and he was right, as usual).

It's a gorgeous day in New York today and I'm going to spend it with Jason. If that sounds weird, I don't care. I'm going to make the most of today because I'm here, I'm alive and, in spite of the heartbreak, I am optimistic and ready to start taking steps forward. One day at a time, right?

July 23, 2016

Legs on a Snake

As one of Amir's friends recently wrote me, "He was so damn good with words." Yes, he was. Though he never studied writing, Amir had a gift for language and for conveying his thoughts most profoundly. I've provided some examples here on this site. Here's yet another, in the form of an email exchange from 2009, after Amir's friend described how she prayed for patience and clarity and trusted that she would be guided to do the right thing. Amir's beautifully-written response:
"What you are describing is a phenomenon commonly known as 'faith.' It not only requires trust in something bigger than yourself; it also cannot be reconciled with or explained through our classical rationale-based thinking. The Buddhists know this--they refer to this kind of neurotic thinking as 'legs on a snake,' totally irrelevant. The scientific method, and Western thinking in general, has no place for this intuitive way of living.
I have understood for many years that God, as I know him, is both imminent and transcendent, within and without. There is no dualism in my mind with regards to this fact. However, I am also well aware that Psychology, as a science, can shed much light on my errors in thinking--'cognitive dissonance,' as it were. The realization is that there is a middle path that incorporates both a rational and spiritual approach to self-improvement. The trick is not letting the pendulum swing too far in either direction.
As you said, you have to know when to turn your brain off so as to avoid spinning your wheels and freezing out any possibility for change. Similarly, despite any overarching spiritual principles, you have to remember that the brain is a machine, and that faulty wiring, manifesting itself in dysfunctional patterns of thought, must be repaired from the ground up. Precisely why I referred to this work as 'tricky business.'
Fierce lions guard these inner gates to liberation, and old habits do indeed die hard. A little effort goes a long way..."
Oh, how dearly I wish Amir had figured out a way to turn off his own brain, as he advised his friend to do. That was one of the things he struggled with the most--I know because it's a struggle he and I shared and talked about openly and often. I'm lucky to have learned how to manage my overactive brain, most of the time. Amir was always searching for ways of calming his mind and quieting his own neurotic thinking and cognitive dissonance. How I wish both he and Jason had achieved that sense of peace. I think they both found it briefly, at different times in their lives, but they struggled to hold on to it, as countless others do. My heart aches for all of them.

July 16, 2016

A Weekend in the Desert

Last weekend, I attended my first annual conference of The Compassionate Friends, a national group founded for bereaved parents, with a growing subgroup of grieving siblings. I've been attending regular meetings in NYC for nearly a year and have made some wonderful friendships among my fellow bereaved siblings. They understand my pain in a way few can. They've lived it.

The conference was an incredibly healing and transformative experience for me. I'm still absorbing it all. I learned a great deal about how to navigate this path and move forward and, more importantly, how to remember, honor and celebrate not only Amir but also Jason in a way that feels right to me.

One anecdote: conference attendees wore lanyards with ID badges stating their name, the name of their loved one and whether they were a parent or sibling. Many people wore buttons with photos of their loved ones. A friend pointed out that her brother would have found that utterly ridiculous and I laughed that Amir would have felt the same. But I did it anyway. I proudly wore a button with his photo even though he would have said something along the lines of, "Please take that stupid fucking thing off."

Along with attending workshops and panel discussions, I thoroughly enjoyed the comfort and camaraderie of other bereaved siblings and parents. The time I spent with fellow siblings was so gratifying and fun and invaluable to me. I'd already found a home with my group in NYC; at the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting siblings from across the U.S., with whom I felt that immediate connection that comes with shared loss. They get it.

I listened and talked freely, sharing memories of Amir and Jason as much as possible. Walking around the hotel grounds or along the hallways linking the conference rooms, I felt as though I was among friends--these fellow travelers on the grief journey. The air was heavy with compassion; the genuine care people showed for their fellow bereaved parents and siblings made my heart swell. Often I found myself fighting back tears just witnessing the love, compassion and friendship soaring around me. It breaks my heart that so many people are so deeply grieving, but I'm so appreciative of TCF for helping them (and me) along the way.

One workshop attendee noted, "I have a hard time socializing with non-bereaved people." Damn. This resonated so much with me. I often feel awkward around people, which is why I isolate myself so much. I'm not depressed or "wallowing in it"--I just feel more relaxed when I'm alone. When I'm with people, I zone out or drift off easily, making conversation difficult. I have a hard time focusing. I can be hit with a memory unexpectedly, causing a wave of sadness when I was otherwise enjoying myself. I want to talk about Amir and Jason but don't want others to feel awkward or sad. I'm no longer the person I was before November 22, 2014, and that's very hard to face.

One of dozens of "memory boards"
around the conference where I shared
Amir & Jason with everyone
Still, the conference was not all about grief and sorrow. In fact, I had a fantastic time. I laughed heartily, I ate and drank well, I swam, I relaxed, I breathed deeply and took it all in.

I'm thrilled to have met and enjoyed the company of some truly special fellow siblings from all over the country. I hope to get more involved in helping others who are grieving. All of this can only aid in my own grieving process and help me heal and move forward from the losses I've endured.

I talked about Amir and Jason every chance I got. They were with me at every turn, as they are every day. I posted numerous photos of them on the "memory boards" lining the hallways in the conference center, along with details of who they were. They both deserve to be remembered every single day.

June 11, 2016

Not Worthy

That was my thought upon waking up this morning. How am I worthy of still being here on this earth when so many incredible people are not? I mean, I know that's bullshit and we're all just insignificant animals in the grand history of this universe. And yet it hurts so badly when certain of those animals are taken from us. Some people may think it's time I got over it and moved on and I'd like to tell those people, from the bottom of my heart, to FUCK OFF. There is no "over it." Yes, I have good days. I laugh and smile and enjoy myself as much as possible--in fact, I seek out simple joys more than I ever have before. But underneath the surface is a deep, lingering ache that never goes away. It contracts and expands, depending on the day or the hour or the circumstance, but it's a tumor on my heart that has no chance of disappearing.

One excellent description of this ache comes from my friend Jordon, a fellow grieving sibling who lost his brother in 2002. He says: "For years, I have likened this loss to having lost a leg, and people are surprised that I am still limping."

How fucking true that is! I feel like I'm limping through life on a daily basis.

Jordon also passed along a quote from writer C.S. Lewis, who wrote about losing his beloved wife:
Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he's had his leg off is quite another.... He will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it.... His whole way of life will be changed.... At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.
Shit, I know how that feels. And yet I'm very proud of myself and my family for pushing ourselves every day, for making a conscious effort to seek out simple joys, for embracing people and experiences that make us smile and breathe and enjoy our brief time here.

Deep grief is life-altering in ways I never could have imagined. And yet, as my sister pointed out when we had a fabulous time together at a wedding two weeks ago, it has motivated us to relax and to "go with the flow" more easily, to enjoy ourselves more and to not take life so seriously. Of course, this presents a conflict in my confused mind, particularly at times when everything feels overwhelmingly serious due to the horrific losses I've been through. But I try, try, try!

We are coming up on a year since Jason's death and I am in the early stages of moving forward. I miss him desperately and I miss him and Amir more and more every day, as the gap between them being here and them being gone stretches wider and wider. But I find reasons to smile each day--even when a memory shoves itself into my mind unexpectedly and my heart sinks, I push myself to turn a moment of sad remembrance into a smile. Though tinged now with melancholy, the inside jokes and funny moments are STILL funny and I try hard to embrace that.

Managing grief is a huge effort every day. It's no wonder I'm exhausted every night and fall into bed as if I'd spent the previous 14 hours doing strenuous labor. It's an exhaustion of the mind. And even though it has not let up, I force myself to squint into the future, at the bright light that is most certainly ahead, albeit dimmer because of who's missing from it.

So... I wake up every morning, shake off the dreams of Amir and Jason that visit me every night and conscientiously push myself closer and closer to that light.

April 30, 2016

Gentle and Jaded

I recently heard from Amir's friend Amanda, who met him when he was in his late 20s:
Amir would leave me funny, pithy notes at work, made me amazing CDs of his favorite songs that I thought I should know and love. He gave me an amazing love letter in his neat and distinctive handwriting, at turns funny and heartfelt, with references to Madonna, Heart and Cheap Trick songs.
In 2013, we met up for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant Amir chose. He looked great, healthy, and he seemed happy (in his way). Even though I hadn't seen him in years, the conversation came as easily as if we had never not been close. He listened as I told him about my fucked up life. He had this way of listening and responding that was simultaneously gentle and jaded. He made me feel like he really heard me, he understood, he could relate, he cared.
We walked around the neighborhood and talked about music and his job at the athletic club, about our cats, our families, his girlfriend. We ate gelato and smoked a cigarette. He walked me back to my car, gave me a hug, and we said, "Let's do this again soon." That was the last time I saw Amir.
I miss know that I could always send him a text asking him the name of that one Chicago song, or what he thought about the recent Super Bowl halftime performance, or what did Meatloaf mean when he said he wouldn't do "that," or did he see this awesome article from The Onion? Even when our friendship went dormant for years, I liked knowing that he was out there in the world somewhere.
I hate that this is no longer true, that we are now living in a world with no Amir. It feels unbelievably wrong.
Thanks, Amanda. I wholeheartedly agree.

April 23, 2016

All Good Things, They Say, Never Last

Am I the weaker man
Because I understand
That love must be the master plan?
Prince - "Diamonds and Pearls"

I have adored Prince since the first time I heard "I Wanna Be Your Lover" on the radio when I was 8 or 9. We flew back and forth between New York and L.A. several times when I was a kid and my favorite part of flying was the little analog radio dial in the arm-rest. They played mostly current pop and rock hits, which I'd listen to for hours while staring out the window at the Earth below. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" was on one of those loops and, to this day, I associate that song with flying cross-country as a kid.

I once drove to the original Penny Lane Records in Venice Beach to buy a rare, expensive vinyl copy of Prince's "Black Album." In the audience at his "Lovesexy" tour in 1988, I marveled at how his energy never waned during a nearly 3-hour set. And Yael and I had a blast dancing together at his "Jam of the Year" tour at the Hollywood Bowl in the mid-'90s.

Amir enjoyed and appreciated Prince and we had many a discussion about his genius. He even indulged me in watching Under the Cherry Moon (a crap movie but its soundtrack remains my favorite Prince album). Still, I don't connect or associate Prince with Amir as much as I did David Bowie, though I know Amir would be saddened by his death as we all are.

The song "Sometimes it Snows in April" holds incredibly deep meaning for me, going back to when I was about 15. It's an intensely personal song about friendship and loss that has touched me since the first time I heard it, prompting tears on almost every listen. In 1986, my friends and I would sit on the floor in my bedroom, with lights out, eyes closed, listening to that song and not speaking the whole time it was on. Sounds sappy, but the song evoked that kind of reverence, even in a bunch of teenagers.

Even before Amir died, I often skipped it when shuffling through my music because it evoked too much emotion. But since Amir's death, I have associated the song with him. Amir was born in April. It will always be his month. Hence, I have not listened to that song since Amir died. I simply cannot do it. Yael and I have talked about it and (whaddaya know?) she feels the same.

Understandably, the song has been played a ton since Prince died. Starting Thursday afternoon, my local public radio station, WFUV, played Prince songs back to back through the evening. Naturally, "Sometimes it Snows in April" featured in the line-up. As soon as I heard the opening chords, I had to yank out my earbuds. Who wants to start crying at their desk at work?

Prince's music touched my heart and soul on so many levels. He made me dance, he told vivid tales of characters and places, he made me want to fall in love, he taught me that sex was beautiful and fun and vital, he made me think about my own spirituality and sexuality. His songs were the backdrop for so many moments and realizations in my life.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to listen to "Sometimes it Snows in April" without the emotion welling up inside me uncontrollably. Amir was born in April. Prince died in April. It's too much.

April 7, 2016

Another Birthday

40 years ago today, Yael and I got the wonderful gift of a baby brother. And our little worlds changed forever and for the better.

Our beautiful Amir would have, SHOULD have, turned 40 today. The mere thought of him not reaching 40 makes my heart physically hurt. It aches. He should be here, we should be celebrating with him, he should be following Yael and I into a new decade, with all of its ups and downs. He should have reached middle age. Hell, he should have lived to be an old man, still pondering the meaning of everything, reading every book in sight, making us laugh and offering sarcastic, witty pearls of wisdom only Amir could have offered.

Summer 2005
I remain utterly heartbroken that he's not here, that we've been deprived of his gentle presence in this world. I'm angry that he was cheated out of so many years. I miss him so much that I want to scream to the heavens to reverse history and bring him back. I revisit history in my mind every day and night, thinking about his 38 years on Earth, what they meant to everyone who loved him and how important that time was to me--the time I had a brother who was also a playmate, a sounding board, an encyclopedia, a books-and-music recommender and, most importantly, a trusted friend and confidant and amateur psychoanalyst.

Today, I am pondering and longing for Amir at 40--who he might have been, where he'd have been in his life and who he'd have been working toward becoming. I will do my best to celebrate and honor him today, as I do in smaller ways each day. I encourage all of you to celebrate him in your own way today.

Amir, I wish I could tell you how much we love you and miss you, today and every day.

April 4, 2016

Reflecting on Photos

I have several childhood photos of Amir on display around my apartment. They bring me comfort and make me smile in spite of missing him and wanting so badly to go back in time. I especially enjoy studying childhood photos of Amir, Yael and I together--smiling, laughing, playing, teasing each other and growing older and taller alongside one another.

Yet, as much as I can handle looking at childhood photos, I often find it difficult to look at more recent photos of Amir. I visualize his death looming and it hurts to not see in his eyes what we could not have known was coming. The same is true for Jason. Photos from the last few years of their lives are particularly hard for me to look at.

Someone (sorry, I don't recall who!) recently sent me this photo of Amir and Jason in 1988 or '89, when they were about 13 and 14.

Dueling mullets, 1988 or '89
Such innocence and optimism in those boyish faces! Here were two incredibly bright, sensitive kids, so curious about the world and just starting to experience their lives beyond the cradle of childhood. Both Lakers and Dodgers fans. Both itching to learn and explore, sharing interests in girls, musical theater, sci-fi, sports, music, performing and making people laugh. And, of course, the carefully-tended '80s mullets they were so clearly proud of.

I still cannot fully grasp the reality that they are gone. Some days, I find it hard to believe the sun continues to rise each day and the world continues to turn without these two beautiful souls, so deeply loved by so many. My own world has been thrown so far off course by their deaths that I struggle every day to find the right direction in which to move forward without them.

March 5, 2016

Unconditional Love

Some tidbits to share on this grey, wintry afternoon. First, from a silly birthday card Amir gave me about 10 years ago:
"Hey sis, Roger Daltrey said 'I hope I die before I get old,' and seeing as how you're old, I'm wondering how we can humanely kill you."
In a note accompanying a mix tape he sent me in 1999:
"Ricky Martin personally approved of every track on this compilation and I refused to send it off until I had his blessing."
From a beautiful note he sent me in 1994, soon after he left for college:
"Over the last few years that I was in L.A., I felt I had increased a lot of [family] tension by being very opinionated, conceited and self-important. Now that I have moved I know that our relationship has matured into a place of unconditional love."
Lastly, some advice he gave me that I wish he'd figured out how to apply to his own life:
"What you possess deep within you--the 'real you'--can be so helpful to everyone. The key is you have to find that place and nurture it, bring it to the foreground instead of the background. If you quiet down and listen to your true 'godly' nature, you'll find all the answers--slowly but surely."

February 20, 2016

From the Most Wonderful Sister in the World

It's been a while since I've written anything, so my brain is full to the fucking brim of thoughts I need to get out. Last week was 6 months since Jason died, which my brain has not absorbed. Hell, I still haven't absorbed the fact that Amir is gone and I've had 14 months for that to sink in. What the fuck?

I spent part of my afternoon going through old letters and cards, having recently bought a new scanner to take another step in preserving them (other than keeping them sealed in plastic, inside a box). It's so heart-wrenching to read these things now, because it only reminds me how fucking brilliant a writer Amir was. Where his cards and letters were sarcastic and funny, Jason's were romantic and lovely. Both of them were witty and brilliant beyond compare.

For today, I'm not going to share Amir's brilliance. I'm going to share his sweetness, as evidenced by this birthday card he made for me (in pencil) when I turned 13. He was 8.

He was so fucking cute.

(With apologies to Yael.)

January 13, 2016

Oh No, Don't Say it's True...

My very first concert was David Bowie's Glass Spider tour. I was 15, my cousin Gill took me and it was unforgettable. I'd enjoyed Bowie's music for years but his music took on deeper meaning when I saw his theatrical and enthralling live show for myself. A few years later, I took 14-yr-old Amir and his friends Mike and Ryan to Bowie's Sound + Vision tour--another awesome experience (and a great memory!).

Another memory: I was about 10 when Dad brought home Aladdin Sane on vinyl and I remember sitting on the living-room floor with Amir, poring over the bizarre artwork (along with that of Dark Side of the Moon and Physical Graffiti). Dad also introduced us to Space Oddity. Guess it's time to say thanks!

Back to now. I'd listened to Bowie's new album Blackstar on Spotify last Friday at my desk and I found it so mesmerizing I couldn't focus on my work. I hadn't listened to new Bowie music in a decade but I was compelled to download Blackstar after reading a review describing the album as Bowie's pondering his death and mortality, two subjects I've become obsessed with lately.

I was so moved by Blackstar, I bought the album on iTunes, something I rarely do anymore. I spent a quiet, reflective weekend listening to the album, wishing I could share it with Amir and discuss its themes with him. As Yael so eloquently put it in a text Monday: "I never would have understood what [Bowie] was trying to do without Amir."

Hearing the news of Bowie's death Monday morning, I yelled back at the radio, "What?! NO!" I'd spent the weekend listening to his farewell! The minute I heard, I ached to call Amir. The news would have hit him hard. I wanted to cry not so much because Bowie was gone (though that stings plenty) but because it hurts so fucking much not to be able to share it with Amir. I want so badly to talk to him about it. It is so fucking hard to face these cultural milestones without being able to talk to Amir. I can't quite process these things without discussing them with Amir and getting his insight. It's like I'm missing a part of my brain.

Last night in my sibling grief-support group, a friend shared a book she'd created, full of funny and snarky Facebook posts her late brother had posted. He was a bright, sarcastic wit, just like Amir. I thought of this blog and how I intended for it to be a repository, a showcase of Amir's life--things he said and did, memories of his childhood and the profound effect he had on people throughout his life. I still have plenty of gems to share with all of you. Stick with me, friends.

January 9, 2016

Amir in Top Form

Jeremy, one of Amir's close high-school friends, recently sent me a very funny and touching remembrance of Amir, which I look forward to sharing here soon. For now, I had to share the part Jeremy wrote about a memorable email from my brother that can only be described as classic Amir:

"I just did a search in my Gmail for emails from Amir. We didn’t email that often, but we had a couple good back-and-forths. His voice is present in all of them. This excerpt is Amir in a nutshell:
We're all getting older, my friend. Birth, death, marriage, divorce - these things seem to occur at a breakneck pace lately. Please give regards to Charles and your old lady. My folks are doing well. My mom asks about you. Not in a sexual way. Actually, I can't really confirm that. Take care. - Amir"
I have mined my own emails and handwritten notes for gems from Amir and have a plethora to share. Meanwhile, keep sending me your own remembrances. Seeing my brother through other people's eyes brings me closer to him, which I ache to do every day.