You know the story better than I do: how you approached me in 7th grade homeroom and said, in a single breath, "Hey-I-see-you-pray-at-lunch-do-you-go-to-church-can-I-come-with-you?" In the years since, you have told me about the anxieties and stirrings that led to this question, but at the time I was baffled by such a profound request from a boy I hardly knew.
Sixteen years later, we've known one another more than half our lives. You--and now you with Amy and sweet Andrew--are home to me, just as my parents are. I know I would not be myself without your friendship, your fraternity.
Every memory is worth its own story -- how can I catalog them? It seems unfair to summarize the shining May of your wedding day, impossible to relate the joy in your voice when, in the wee hours of the morning, you called to tell me of the birth of your son. The ordinary days are even harder to distill. Those long evening bike rides along the railroad tracks, for example, the summer I left for college. Or the season you came to live at our house, inhabiting Spare Oom, next to my own room in the attic, when we would spend every Friday night talking into the small hours, sometimes waking my father with our laughter.
What about the night you left for Iraq? I was on the phone with you until the last possible moment, and then you said, "Okay, I -- it's time to go." Suddenly, because of you, I had joined that ancient and universal sisterhood of women who have watched, with terror and pride, as fathers, sons, husbands, brothers leave for war. Until you came home, I braided yellow ribbons into my hair. When you came back, the stories you told humbled me in ways nothing else has.
In 7th grade I'm quite sure I outweighed you, but you grew strong so quickly -- you are still strong, but one of the gentlest men I know. You can be sanguine to a fault; your resilience and good cheer amaze me. You are a devoted husband, a loving father, and a wise teacher. Your vocation is to protect people from harm and ignorance, and sometimes you must do those things roughly, but you also make the world beautiful. My best teapot and my favorite knitting needles, after all, were gifts from you.
Sometimes I am amazed you put up with me when were teenagers. When I consider all that you endured and witnessed before you were eighteen, I wonder that I didn't seem impossibly naive, hopelessly fragile. But for all of that, you were the first person to ever tell me that I was strong. Thank you for all the years you have spent provoking and protecting me. Thank you for teaching Andrew to call me "Aunt Bethany," and for demanding that I come each Christmas. Thank you for marrying my friend Amy, so that she has remained such a strong and beautiful presence in my life. When I was a little girl, I prayed for brothers, and you were God's first answer.
|2002: Easter baskets at home|
|2007: Home from Iraq to meet his newborn boy|
|2011: Christmas with one of my favorite families|