Tag Archives: han solo

Oh, the places you’ve been

My little brother is graduating high school.

And yes, if you’re doing the math in your head, let me just stop you right there. There is a 17 year gap in our ages. I joke that my mom needed that long to recover from my birth and let’s just leave it at that instead of getting into the whole “she was a single mom for a long time and then finally found love” story.

Besides, this is his story I want to tell. Because his story is extraordinary and one I never thought I’d tell with this happy of an ending.

And his story starts on a warm July day when suddenly my mom’s water broke in the middle of the living room. It was three months ahead of schedule. It was a ghastly shade of pale red. It was a real life nightmare.

My stepfather raced her to the hospital. I stayed behind. Just me and this awful giant red stain in an empty house. I have a distinct memory of sobbing while trying to clean it up. I then have an even more distinct memory of my grandma telling me to kindly suck it up, buttercup, and go to the hospital because my mom needed me.

So I did.

One pound, three ounces. That’s what he weighed. One pound, three ounces. He could fit into the palm of my hand if he wasn’t in an incubator, barely visible underneath all the medical equipment being used to keep him alive. He stayed in that incubator for months. You had to scrub your hands, and wear a hospital gown and medical mask, just to even stare down at him inside this tiny glass case that, in my opinion, looked much too similar to a tiny coffin.

And he did almost die. A lot. At one point, the doctors were so sure he was going to die that they let his parents hold his frail, tiny body because they may not have gotten another chance.

And yet, he defied the odds. He was our tiny Han Solo, declaring “never tell me the odds” with each breath he kept defiantly taking.

He wasn’t out of the woods, of course. And for a long time, it felt like we should all just build a log cabin and set up permanent residence in those woods because he was never getting out.

But he defied those odds too. No matter what long, impossible-to-pronounce, medical terminology they threw at him, he beat them all.

And before I could fully comprehend the miracle I had just witnessed, he was healthy enough to run around and annoy me just like any old little brother.

But even then those pesky damn odds wouldn’t leave him alone. He struggled to catch up with his peers. He struggled in school. Speech problems, lung problems, hormone issues. It was exhausting to watch. I can’t imagine the Herculean strength it took him and our parents to actually live it. Doctors, specialists, tutors. It was a never-ending revolving door.

It would be easy to turn bitter under circumstances like these. Or to give up. Or to feel the perpetual victim.

But not him.

He struggled with all his tiny willpower right from the beginning just to stay alive and he’s never stopped living since. He has traveled the world. He writes. He cooks. He takes beautiful photos.

And he loves.

That’s what always gets me the most. His capacity to love. Everything that he has been through and what does he do? He makes me feel like the most beloved person on the planet. He has shined a beacon of unconditional love directly onto my face for as long as I can remember. No matter what I did or how well I played the role of annoyed (much) older sister, he gave me affection and admiration that I’m still not sure I’ve earned.

And because of that, I have always, and will always, try to be the person my brother thinks I am.

I don’t know if I ever told him that. But what better time than upon this unbelievably beautiful day, when I get to see him in a cap and gown after watching him knock down every single last obstacle that stood in his way? Because while it’s tradition upon a graduation to tell the graduate about, oh, the places he’ll go, today, I felt it was important to remind him of all the places he’s been.

I love you, Brandon. You are an amazing human and your fight to get to this point illustrates the best parts of humanity.

Congratulations, little brother.

 

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The most magical place on earth

There are really only two things you can count on in this world.

  1. There will always be a line at Starbucks.
  2. Everything changes (except there always being a line at Starbucks).

Yes, change truly is the one constant in this world. Time marches on and on, dragging with it decay and dust and the dying careers of B-list actors.

But there is one place, one magical place, where time has stood still. A place that, just like the great white shark, has never had to evolve. Someday the pyramids will fall and nature will reclaim our concrete cities and the voodoo spell currently keeping Keith Richards alive will end. Yet, this magical place will still be standing, its murky fluorescent lights still flickering and buzzing, beckoning us in away from the cold, cruel hands of a relentless Father Time.

This magical place I’m talking about, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, is Kmart.

Oh yes. Kmart. That retail giant we all grew up with and that provided generations of children with the embarrassingly hideous clothes that were required on school picture day. Much to my surprise, and possibly yours, these magical places still exist today. And magical they are, kids. Because you can walk into any Kmart anywhere in the world and it is perpetually 1983 in there.

I know this because I’ve gotten on pretty intimate terms with the Kmart store that is within walking distance of my house ever since I had a baby. See, babies are a unique creature that are always requiring things. And not just any things. Things they need RIGHT NOW. Things like diapers and wipes and milk and a right shoe because they somehow lost their right shoe and only their right shoe but since none of their other shoes currently fit because they just had a growth spurt 15 minutes ago, they require a whole new pair.

So, like every other exhausted parent, I spend half my life in whatever the closest store is to buy my kid all the stupid crap they require on a constant basis.

Time moves at a different pace inside Kmart. You walk in from the blinding summer sunlight through those doors to pick up some infant Tylenol and processed cheese and when you walk back out, suddenly it’s dusk.

In the middle of winter.

Three years from now.

This is mainly because Kmart is built like a labyrinth where nothing is where it logically should be, but also because this never-ending maze is littered with all kinds of booby traps, like unsupervised feral toddlers and abandoned carts piled high with men’s khaki pants blocking pathways.

This time vortex pulls you even deeper in once you finally make it to the checkout. Because of the three lanes open (and there will always only be three lanes open, ALWAYS, unless there are only two lanes open), no matter which one you choose, you will end up behind the person who has to, for some unfathomable reason, purchase her giant pile of stuff using two separate transactions. (And don’t even THINK of switching lanes because if you do you will inevitably end up behind someone worse…like someone who needs a price check AND has coupons AND answers a phone call from her sister, who she’s fighting with, mid-transaction).

Now why this aforementioned person needs to purchase the shampoo and out-of-season Christmas sweater with cash and the candles, coloring books, dust buster and crock pot with a credit card is a mystery that not even Nancy Drew partnered up with the Hardy Boys can figure out. And yet, it happens.

Every.

Single.

Time.

But time is not the only magical thing about Kmart.

Take, for instance, how every single cashier that works in the store is magically only on their third day of the job and doesn’t know how anything works, like the cash register or basic capitalism. So, just to be safe, they scan your items with the speed of Han Solo trapped in carbonite.

Kmart is also full of people who have never shopped before. Or so you would reasonably assume, once you see how they react after being handed their receipt. These people proceed to stare at this piece of paper as though they have never seen such a thing before in their life.

“A list of the goods I just purchased 18 seconds ago? What witchery is this!? I had better stand here and inspect this devil paper in excruciating detail, the next person in line be damned! Now, this first item here, dear merchant, I see it says the puzzle of the ducks on the water was $5.99. That’s interesting, indeed. Oh yes, I knew it was $5.99. I just find it interesting. Now as for line two…”

But mock though I do, dear Kmart, the fact remains I need you, at least until my kid can wipe his own butt. And even I must admit that entering through your magical, time-warp doors is always an adventure.

I’d tell you to never change, but there’s no need.