Toast to My Brother

17 Aug

This weekend found me in Dallas, hanging out with my brother for part of his two week wedding extravaganza.
He made the smart play, met him a nice beautiful woman and finally decided to settle down.
To say I am proud of him would be a ridiculous understatement. I have had the pleasure of watching him grow into the beautiful young man he is today.
As a kid I always envied how easy it was for him to interact with people. I’m sure looking like Webster helped his “cute’ factor in a way that couldn’t for me (I am the text book definition of a late bloomer).

It seemed like he came out of the womb with bulging pecs and he had a fearlessness that I did not yet possess. I remember him jumping into the deep end of the pool in his diapers as a 2 year old. He also possessed this boundless energy that never dissipated. The only way he would settle down was to watch our weekend rentals with his favorite pillow.

As a teenager he was a real knucklehead, hanging out with anybody who was considered cool and getting into trouble because he didn’t know how to say not to a bad idea (admittedly some of those ideas were mine at times).

I was actually relieved when I first heard he was going to the Air Force. Though I believe much like Furious Styles, that the black man has no place in the military; I knew that the streets held very little future for my little bro.

He went off to California, and his adventures soon began. California led to Korea, Korea led way to Turkey, and Turkey soon gave way to Afghanistan.

It is very true that he and I did not always see eye to eye growing up. He thought I was an uptight, bratty square and I thought he was cocky and reckless. We were both right, and over the years without saying so, we gradually began to understand one another. We started having authentic conversations and the more we both traveled the more our worlds opened up.

The closer it got to his deployment, the more worried I became. It seemed sad that just as we were really getting close that he would have to go off to war. It wasn’t a fun period to say the least. Most nights were anxiety ridden. I didn’t get much sleep–dreading that I would get a cryptic call or text from my mother. Being the lucky “mufucka” he was, he didn’t even get a single scratch. I couldn’t have been happier when he sent me the email that he was heading to Germany for decompression classes. My brother was coming home completely whole, physically and mentally.

I didn’t get to actually see him until the weekend of his bachelor party. I found myself just going with the flow, doing whatever he wanted to do. No bitching about his crazy driving or loud music. I just chilled and enjoyed meeting his military buddies, and other friends who he’d met while growing up as an adult. My brother is a connector. He has friends from all walks of life and all of them as entertaining and funny as he is. It was a nice thing to witness.

The wedding reception wasn’t quite what he wanted but it went off well enough. Always the dapper dresser, he was looking pretty fresh in his purple suspenders and bow tie and all white suit.
And I had never seen an impromptu line dance at a wedding before.

It was fun, a lot of fun. There was a slew of heartfelt toasts. Because there were so many I cut mine short and decided to be different. My mom had the best one, talking about what a catch his wife was getting and what a great person he was in general. It was very touching.

That was when it hit me: my brother’s a badass! War hero, ladies man, nice car driving, fancy threads wearing, gators to the prom kind of dude. He was in the middle of creating a legendary story. And this was MY brother.

I immediately wanted my toast back. I went for the laughs when maybe I should have been more honest. Given the chance again I would have told everybody in the room how much of an honor it was to be his big brother, and how I couldn’t be prouder of him. And how he was my hero and that I admired him as much as anyone I knew. I wanted to tell them that somewhere along the line he stopped being my pain-in-the-ass little brother and started being one of my best friends. And that I wished my grandmother was alive to see how well he turned out–that she would be just as proud of him as anyone. Just knowing him inspired me to be a better person.

He spent the whole night dancing with every woman in the room, his wife, our mom, aunts, cousins. It was a sight to see. He was home, and he was healthy and he was married. I hadn’t seen a black man so free since the Mos Def show I attended a few months back. It was his night to shine. I leaned against the wall and blew a big sigh of relief. He had proved he could take care of himself a long time ago. My little bro had become a man.


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