Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dear Joey

Today you turned 21.
I can’t even believe that.
Currently, at the age of 23, I don’t consider there to be a vast difference between myself and a 21 year-old. But I do consider there to be a big difference between the two of us. Don’t misunderstand—it’s got nothing to do with your level of maturity. It does, however, have everything to do with you being my little brother.
I guess I’d better get over that frame of mind real quick.
Especially because you’re taller than me.

Unlike the day Janie was born, I do not remember the day you joined our family (and, as you already know, I apparently remember EVERYTHING).
I don’t remember feeling displaced.
I don’t remember feeling upset.
I don’t remember feeling mad or wary or even jealous.
I take this lack of memory to mean that I could only have been grateful for your birth into this world to stand forever by my side as my brother.
And grateful am I still.

You are an impressive person, Joseph.
Someone to admire.
Someone to marvel at.
Always a “master of your own destiny,” as they say.
You’ve never forgotten the number one rule of survival: make yourself happy first.
And then worry about everyone else.

You’ve never been shy about asking questions.
Always wanting to know “why?”, and never satisfied with a meager response of just “because.” You needed to know what string of events brought the world to exist as it does today. Perhaps this is why you love history so much.
And once you figured the “why” part out, you would of course set out to understand the “how.” This was usually done by doing the exact opposite of anything anyone told you not to do.
Like the time you bought a white mouse that was meant to feed snakes at the pet store for $1, and kept it in your closet inside a shoebox with bits of toilet paper.
Or when you were twelve and you, plus three friends, decided to raft down the North branch of the Chicago River. In an inflatable kiddie pool. In March.

You have always been fiercely loyal to those who have touched life.
The boys who were on the river with you are still your closest friends today.
I’m almost positive that everyone you meet ends up being your friend. Or, at least wanting to be.
Your easy-going attitude and unwavering face of support make others gravitate towards you. Everyone needs a friend who will go to bat for them. Whether that means answering your phone in the middle of the night because they need someone to talk to, or pretending to throw a punch or two (pretending, Mom, I said pretending).
A person who is proud of who they are.
A person who is proud of his wonderful friends, and is constantly ready and willing to do whatever he can to help them.
A person who is proud of his heritage and his family and where he comes from.
A person who is proud of all that he has done, and all that he will do.
This person is proud of all these things because that is what makes them who they are.

You, baby brother, are that person.

And after all that, you’re smart, too!
God damn are you smart.
What kind of person aces tests that he didn’t study for?
What kind of person can watch so many Adam Sandler movies and still be able to debate modern politics?
What kind of person has a subscription to Maxim and still bothers to read Time?
A YOU kind of person.
That’s who.

Bravery and passion have never been lacking in your life.
Soldiers in the revolutionary battles that you love to read about so much wish they could have been as brave as you are.
Gutting a fish (I don’t care what anyone says, that is the single act the cements your bravery in my mind).
Your enthusiasm for these things, the things that you love so dearly, is evidence of your passion for life.
Even when your temper flares (which it does from time-to-time), it is only because you care so deeply about the topic being discussed or the decision being made.
You were always an opinionated little sucker.
I know that you’re going to make some lucky woman very happy someday.
If you can finally slow down long enough for one to catch up to you.

I hope that this birthday is everything you wanted it to be.
When I turned 21, I was far away in a strange land.
Tonight, you are also far away (but not quite as far as I was).
But if I know the middle Sullivan child, you are surrounded by cavalry of adoring friends.
And somehow, I know that you’re going to make the most of this.

So buckle your seatbelt, little brother.
Today, a door into a brand new world has opened for you.
I am, without a doubt, convinced that you will not take for granted any of the gifts that you have been given.
I know that you are ready to take this new world by storm.
The question is… is this world ready for you?

We shall see.

Thank you, Joey.
For being my friend.
For being my brother.
For being all of the wonderful things that you are.

Happy birthday, Joey Doey
I love you.

Molly Pop

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