August 24, 2017

The Cutest Girl Scout

A few weeks ago, I received this message via Facebook from a childhood friend of Amir's:
I don't think we ever met. I was a friend of Amir's from elemetary and jr. high school. If truth be told, he was my first crush.
I was visiting my parents this past weekend and we were watching old home movies that my parents had digitized. One was of the Germain St. School Halloween carnival. There was a scene of me (dressed as a witch) waiting in line for a game with Amir who was dressed as a Girl Scout. I must admit this brought on a brief desire to cyberstalk him. I was certain that he would be a professor somewhere or an author in a corduroy blazer with suede elbows.
I am so sorry to find him gone. Your tribute blog is beautiful and I'm not sure if this will bring you any comfort, but today there is another person in the world who is saddened by his loss and remembers him fondly.
My heart jumped a bit as soon as I saw Amir's name in her message. This is nothing new. I smiled at the memory of Amir in the Girl Scout uniform--he was 8 or 9 at the time, blond and smirking and cheeky and cuter than any other Girl Scout around.

I shared the message with my sibling-loss support group and I found one friend's reaction particularly interesting: she felt that such messages can sometimes cause more pain than comfort. I disagreed, saying I'm always happy to hear from anyone who remembers my brother, whether in a good light or not. It crushes my heart to pieces to think that my parents and Yael and I are the only ones thinking of him and remembering him every day.

My friends and I ended up having an interesting discussion on the issue of receiving messages such as this. Like me, others said they found such messages comforting and, like me, they wished they would receive them more often. I long to hear that Amir made an impact on people; that they were affected by him in some way. I long to connect with people who miss Amir and who keep his memory alive in their minds, as I do every day.

I thanked the sender for reaching out, telling her how much it means to us to hear from people who have fond memories of Amir. I never tire of hearing stories about him, talking about him, remembering him. That's the whole fucking point of this blog.

June 19, 2017

Three of Us

There is an enormous difference between "two of us" and "three of us." When it comes to siblings and, in particular, to me and mine, the difference is painfully significant. I cannot overstate this.

October 1980
I love my sister with every ounce of my soul. She is the closest person to me in every way. That does not make it any less devastating nor easy to accept that it is just the two of us now. When we were three, we were a solid front: one more than our two parents or two grandparents. We were a team, united against any obstacles that tumbled into our path. We each had two siblings to confide in, to collaborate with, to seek advice from. Or just to laugh with over how ridiculous our lives and the world at large really are. There were three of us who grew up in our house, three of us who remembered the particulars of our unique upbringing, three of us who could help each other fill in the blanks of our childhood memories, divergent or not.

Now I find time spent with my sister to be more significant, more important, more special than ever. I mark her words carefully and put them in a special place. I try to imprint her voice, her smile, her eyes, her thoughts, in my memory more vigilantly. I could do so physically somehow, I would.

I do the same with my parents as they age, but without the benefit of seeing them through my brother's eyes as well, I feel as though something in my own perception is missing. I so long for his singular observations on our family dynamic. Yael and I had a long talk recently about our parents and what lies ahead for them and for us as their eventual caretakers. It was helpful and necessary, yet without Amir's input, our discussion feels incomplete. You know when you say, "Great talk. Next, let's discuss it with so-and-so..."? We can't discuss it with Amir regardless of how much we want to and need to. And without him, any decision or thought feels half-baked.

This does not get easier and I know it will get harder as time continues to take Amir further and further away from us. I feel similarly with regard to my love, Jason--I continue to ponder every big decision with him in mind. I seek his voice in everything. He is with me every day, at the forefront, in small ways imperceptible to others but so meaningful to me and who we were together.

For the better part of my life, the two people closest to me absolutely were Yael and Amir. Then, Jason moved into my heart and became my partner. This exceptional trio made up the core of my world, my backbone, my home base. They were my touchstones. Now that two of them are gone, I struggle to move forward in spite of the need and desire to do so. The very core of my life has been shaken, stirred and rocked. I am changed irreversibly. And, though it may surprise people that I still grieve every day for these two remarkable humans, there will never come a day when I don't. Never.

April 7, 2017

Another birthday

Our Amir should be 41 today. This whole week has been difficult and I wonder if I should just hibernate the first week of April every year? Sigh... I still have so much trouble with the sad fact that it just does not get easier. In fact, at times it feels more difficult and heavy now than it did two years ago. The more time goes by, the longer he's not here, the more lost I feel without him.

Two of his favorite bands released new albums recently (Spoon, a few weeks ago, and The New Pornographers, TODAY) and fuck if he wouldn't love them. He turned me on to Spoon years ago and would be thrilled at how much I like their new album. I'm so shredded that I can't talk to him about it. And he was so crazy about Neko Case and TNP... he'd surely be raving about that album, too.

That's really the thing about grief. Of course, we all feel destroyed that Amir's life was cut short, that he didn't get to accomplish so much of what he wanted to, that he didn't deserve to die. And of course, we all miss him in different ways at various times and constantly. But the hardest part is just the longing to have one more conversation, one more late-night phone marathon, one more hug. The constant longing to simply hear his voice and his laugh. The longing to hear his opinion on something mundane like a movie or album or on something important like what's happening in the world.

A few weeks ago, my family celebrated my cousin Arik's wedding in Mexico. The joy and love and happiness was so full and tangible... we all love Courtenay and were so thrilled to be there together to celebrate their love. And yet, for me, Amir's absence loomed so large and heavy and painful. I hate that my longing for him diminishes every family gathering, but how could it not? He should have been there. He should have been part of the celebration. HE SHOULD BE HERE WITH US NOW. That feeling will NEVER change.

I don't believe in mediums or seances or things of that nature, though I put aside my skepticism when friends or family who are grieving decide to try it. Who am I to tell them I think it's bullshit? If it gives them comfort, I fully support it. Even though I'm skeptical, I must admit I'm curious and I can understand their reasoning--it comes from something I do understand: the overwhelming longing to have some connection with our lost loved ones. What I wouldn't give to tell Amir we all love him and miss him and to hear he's at peace. If I had any real indication that a medium could offer me that, I'd try it. Skepticism goes out the window when grief takes over.

Anyway, I've gone off on several tangents--it's because I haven't written in a while and I'm overflowing with thoughts... I just miss Amir so much. Not only on his birthday but every single fucking day, my thoughts are never far from him for more than minutes at a time.

March 10, 2017

The Greatest Potential

Two weeks ago, during the Oscars ceremony, Viola Davis said this in her acceptance speech: "There's one place where the people with the greatest potential are gathered. And that's the graveyard."

That hit me like a punch to the chest. Indeed, one of the most difficult things about the death of a relatively young person is the lost opportunity to witness that person's true, full potential. This is certainly the case with my darling younger brother--he had so much left to achieve, to prove, to offer the world. He had so much he wanted to show all of us. Sadly, the same is true of my husband, Jason, and countless other young lives lost. What could they have accomplished given more time? What could they have contributed to the world?

Amir and Jason were both extremely gifted writers. Jason embraced the opportunity to study creative writing at NYU, where he excelled as a standout in his program. He wrote beautiful poems, plays and prose. Amir spent years jotting his clever thoughts in notebooks, always dreaming of writing professionally but never gaining the confidence to pursue it in spite of my encouragement. Both Amir and Jason wrote hilariously witty letters and emails, piles of which I have saved in boxes and will cherish for the rest of my life.

But, apart from the love and wisdom they imparted to friends and family and the many laughs they gave us, what undiscovered potential did they take with them when they died? We will never know, a fact that I find incredibly difficult to process and accept.

More on this later...

January 15, 2017

Neko the Hunter

From the time I was about 8 years old, we always had a family pet (or three). The first was a street-smart calico who wandered into our yard not long after we moved to CA from NY. Amir had noticed her first. He began requesting American cheese slices more and more frequently from my mom, who didn't think twice because that kid loved cheese more than oxygen. Eventually, my parents realized he was feeding cheese to the stray cat who'd been hanging around our yard. Thus, she became ours. We named her Brown Kit, or Brownie for short. (I cannot account for our lack of imagination in coming up with a name.)

Later, there was Buba the mutt, who, in spite of the love rained upon her in our house, ran away every chance she got until one day she didn't come back. Then, we got Skylar, our beloved golden retriever, who was such a part of the family for two decades that we still talk about him often and photos of him still line my parents' hallway, 20 years after his death. After Brownie, there was Henry the rockstar cat, who lived fast and died young, and Calvin (aka The Fatbox), our cuddly orange tabby gentleman.

As adults and (mostly) apartment dwellers, Amir and Yael and I all went on to adopt cats of our own. For years, Amir's feline companion was the fickle and finicky Neko, named for one of his favorite singer/songwriters, Neko Case. That cat worshipped Amir and rarely, if ever, let another human near her. The three of us talked often about our cats' antics and personality quirks, including exchanges such as this one between Amir and I:

Postscript: We were very fortunate to find a wonderful new home for Neko with a work colleague of Amir's who was heartbroken by his death. She and her husband had also recently lost their cat. Neko's lovely new owners provided gentle reassurance and waited patiently for her to learn to trust them. They'll never know what peace of mind they gave us, knowing Amir's beloved girl would be well cared for.

January 7, 2017

Scooby Snacks

The other night, I found myself scrolling through old texts on my phone. These made me smile and laugh, recalling Amir's unique humor. I miss our text chats like crazy. What I wouldn't give for another round of pop music minutiae.

New Year... Trying for Happy

Anyone who's lost someone close to them knows how difficult and heartwrenching it is to turn that calendar over to a new year. Another year they won't see or experience. For those of us still mourning, it's another year of grief and loneliness. I'm getting pretty fucking sick of feeling this way, yet I don't want to "get over it." I will never get over it. I have become a fantastic actress (or at least a clown). Most days, no one would detect the sadness and pain I feel. That's not to say I fake being happy--I am lucky to have many genuine moments of happiness, fun and laughter in my life. But the underlying sadness is always there. And I cover it up like a fucking boss. Usually.

December was a wretched month in many ways. A friend and neighbor of mine and Jason's died on New Year's Eve. Another young life lost. Cathy was a bright light around our neighborhood--always smiling, joyful, spreading laughter and warmth. Everyone within 10 blocks knew her face and her smile. She had a wicked sense of humor. I admire her joyful spirit even more knowing her life wasn't all rainbows and I strive to live life as positively as she did. She helped Jason with his business, she and her husband had us over for epic summer nights in their backyard and she tried to be there for me as I struggled to cope.

I will always be sad that we had not talked much since Jason's death. And these terrible things that happen only make me miss Jason more, as I long so badly to talk to him. He would have been so saddened by Cathy's death and would have joined me in lending support to her husband and family.

When you lose someone close to you, you naturally miss their physical presence--their smile, their voice, their laugh, their arms around you. But what I miss even more with Amir and Jason is their insights and ideas and thoughts about everything. I miss talking to them so much I feel I can't stand it sometimes. I am not myself because I cannot share things with them. I often feel like half a person without them in my life.

So, I move into a new year with a heavy weight on my shoulders, but one that lightens with support and love from my friends and family. I remain sad but optimistic. Grieving but positive. I strive to find happiness and purpose, even when both seem unlikely. I truly appreciate what I have and what I'm capable of, even when I dread the thought of a future without Amir and Jason in it. No matter what, I will do whatever I can to make 2017 a happy and productive year.