To my dear brother, my own kin, my side-by-side man, who is my cousin—I celebrate you, us, life itself, our mothers.
There is nothing else that can bind us more, and we have the entire expanse of life to explore. I have wanted you as my own brother, my friend, my secret sharer and companion since we first met. To call you brother is the most natural thing I can think, and when I think of my life, I think of you. I count your years along with my own, and measure my life in step with yours—I am this many years, you are this many minus three. How old are you now? In line with my years. How is your health and wealth and happiness?
Measured along with the length of my reach to have you by my side until we grow old and share a seat at the diner down the street.
To my dear sister, my younger one, my half-twin, who is also my cousin—I celebrate the same, today, forever.
To call you sister is what I’ve always wanted, to be the older brother you can count on, and, along with your brother, be counted among the moments and movements of my life. This is my life, and there you are—part of me—and me, part of you. We are life itself and the tale humans have told since siblings walked tall among plains somewhere. Since day one you were the youngest, the last, the protected we somehow were sworn to shield. I count my blessings more than twice, and you are there, all along. My own.
Corner booth, same diner, the lot of us.
To my foster brothers and sister who are out there somewhere: you were my only siblings I ever had, if only for months (how does an only child have bunk beds?)—I have thought of you long upon these years, and we are almost reaching middle age and slowing down enough to find that it’s time for some third act where we recount the years and missed connections, and parallel timelines, and wishes never granted.
To my best men and friends, who are also my chosen brothers in life, who have known me in my formative years, and shared the pangs of foolish maturation, I lay down my life for you easily, as we should.
There is no wedding or birthday complete without some revelry with you nearby—or there used to be, before we all moved away; there is no thought of my life without counting you and your babies, who share the same years with my children. Life has given us this one go-around, and it means everything that I could have you too. We shall grow old, cursing and blessing the Earth together as we share bourbon and song on porches as our children take our places in the great, wide world. We shall sneak cigarettes behind the house and the wives will be no wiser, although the wives are often wiser.
And to my brothers and sisters who died young, whose caskets and memorials and graves I have stood next to, wishing for more time, wishing to have known you better—you are with me in my drive to work, in the corners of rooms I sit alone in, and when I feel my age and my pinpoint in time. You are with me when I wish the world was set right. I am fortunate to have known you and to carry you in memory. I am never at a loss for words when I talk with you.
To my brothers and sisters who have died at their own hands—I know it wasn’t my place to save you, but I wish it had been. I would have, and I wouldn’t have to have said anything. I wish that life would have been boring instead of tumultuous, and lasted long after the dark hours of suffering, and that you would have suffered enough here and there to last longer than that one fateful day when you disappeared from the calendar. You are also with me in moments I walk alone, wishing you had chosen more and better hours. And I was almost one of you several times, swallowed up in darkness here and there also, and will never choose that now that I am older, and slower, and have decided that living is better than any other option, considering all options.
And to my brothers fighting in a foreign land, or taking up arms against one another; to those calling me brother or enemy or something that mothers might be ashamed to hear: how I wish I could know you and your struggle, and we could see eye to eye on all the things that make us men and fathers and sons.
How I wish those weapons could melt into shovels and we could build your family all the housing they need—someday, we sing.
And I can’t forget my young sisters and brothers in the classroom and shop floor and fields of play, those I’ve taught from their childhood and have seen become mothers and fathers and workers of the world. I count your lives sacred and singular, and consider your lives as part of my own, if only for a short while.
If I can hold this much family inside of my own arms and veins and heart, and fill up the years, and add your humanity to mine, then I will. It is a great and dangerous adventure, but life is long and full of time, and I will look for a word to call you, and it will be so.