(May 21, 2013)
I figured it out.
The reason it is so hard for me to look at pictures of you before the accident, that is.
You would think I could do it now. You are awake, you are out of the hospital. Technically this is a rehabilitation "hospital", yes. But you are speaking, you're alive.
I have been reading a lot lately. Mostly about traumatic brain injuries, success stories, medicines, therapies, personal articles and blogs. I have also seen a number of pictures. There is always the family photo, everyone smiling around the patient. Everyone so happy. But I can always pick out the injured. And it's not because of the scars or the myriad attached medical equipment. It's the eyes.
Your eyes are different now. In all of these pictures, these pictures of total strangers...strangers who have overcome insurmountable odds, horrific accidents and close calls, I see the same thing. They are lost.
You can tell a story however you want to. You can elaborate and exaggerate, but your eyes don't lie. Ever.
Yours are telling me that you aren't there yet, completely. There is an emptiness to them, a longing that is hard to stomach. When I look at your "old" pictures, I don't see that space. I see laughter, I see youth, I see endless possibility. I see my brother.
Whenever they ask you questions, I can feel my stomach tighten. It's hard to watch them ask you these things. "Which one is red?" "What is meant by the phrase, 'honesty is the best policy?" "Which one doesn't belong?"
I want you to answer correctly so badly. For your benefit, of course, but also because I don't know that I can live in a world where you don't get it right. These questions aren't "it" though, for me. They can tell me that you are healing cognitively, but they can't show me the person you will be.
These questions don't tell me if you'll still love The Strokes. They can't show me that you'll laugh at the same things, that you'll still prefer to shop at thrift stores, or that I will still loathe arguing with you more than anyone else on the planet.
I realized today that I can't look at your "before" pictures, because I haven't seen your"after". We aren't there yet.
I can remember a game we played growing up. You, Molly, and I. It would usually be springtime or summer, and we would circle the date on the kitchen calendar...whatever day we decided to play. We would count the remaining days until Christmas and take a mental note.
Once December came around, we would meet back in the kitchen. Sometimes, growing so impatient the week before, hastily pulling the calendar down and searching the months for that long lost day, still marked in red.
"Remember?!" We'd exclaim.
"Remember when Christmas was THIS far away?!!" And we'd wonder how we'd ever made it so far...
I know there will come a time when you'll be back.
It might come to me in the form of a random, sarcastic text message as I wait in line at the post office.
I may see you across the dinner table, subtly mocking an unsuspecting member of the family.
I might catch you in a fleeting moment, mid-laughter as you throw your head back.
But there you'll be.
I will smile, and I'll think to myself. There he is.
There's my brother.