Today my brother Bill would have been 46. If he hadn't died at 42. I would have called him at midnight last night, so I could be the first to wish him Happy Birthday, a game we played since childhood, that midnight birthday wish started when he was six and I was twelve and he crept into my bedroom, shaking my arm, saying, Sister, Sister, wake up! Decades later, that midnight phone ringing for me in April, for him in August, a race to be the first.
I have other siblings. I love all of them. I like some of them. I adored Bill. His crazy curly hair as out of control as his imagination, and ambition, and sometimes his temper. His laugh is what I miss most. A big sudden bark of a laugh, charging all the way from his feet, his broad head thrown back, smile wide and bright. When he laughed, I always thought of brand new pennies, the sound shining and sharp, filling the air.
But he knew his shit. No matter what, if he told you something, he knew what he was talking about. In second grade, he took himself to the principal's office. A substitute teacher watched him pack his superhero backpack, asking, What are you doing? He stopped, corrected her again on the fact that the state of Virginia was not named for Virginia Dare, then said, You're an idiot. But if I tell you that, you'll send me to the office. So I'll just go ahead and take myself there. And he did. Marched his seven year old self up there and told the principal they needed to do two things: call our mama, and hire smarter substitutes.
He faced dying four times in his short forty-two years. An illness in infancy where the doctors were blowing my mama off until she stood her own ground. Later, a spleen and diaphragm ruptured playing racquetball. Then, in 2001, the SUV that hit him on his motorcyle, breaking his body in ways unimaginable, including tearing a hole in his heart. The doctors said, We don't know why he's still alive. I said, I do. He's not ready to go.
Ten years, he called them the gravy years, between 32 and 42, when he hurt so much, but still laughed so loud. But he was tired, so tired. And that hole in his heart, repaired once, gave way again, opened up, when he was ready, and let him go.
Writer, mother, widow, sister, especially today, a sister, missing my best friend. My official website is http://marycarrollhackett.com/