Think of all the things you would’ve missed….
One. The Star Wars saga — sans episode the ninth. Playing hooky with your direct supervisor and coworkers to watch episode the first. Also this:
Conversation with my five-year-old nephew:
Me: But those stories are written by the best storyteller ever born (Shakespeare)!
Him: Not Star Wars.— June 25, 2014 / Panera Bread at The Woodlands Mall with family
Two. The Miracle on Ice! THAT FANTASTIC MOVIE Disney made later, memorializing the glorious feat of those Olympians. Watching that with your mother. All the times you’ve enjoyed it since. That soundtrack you were playing the day you hydroplaned on the interstate going seventy-five miles an hour and the miracle that everyone managed to get out of your crazy way and when Phineas Boba Fett (your beloved Acura RSX) stopped spinning and bouncing off guard rails, God put your car back in the lane you’d occupied before the world tilted and had Phinny facing the right way. You were listening to the Miracle soundtrack when that happened.
Three. Pac-Man. Taking turns, playing with your brothers first thing in the morning before school. Also Super Mario Brothers… the countless hours you spent playing this with your younger brother.
Four. MTV. The summer of eighty-three when you made friends, and yall would call each other to announce Duran Duran’s Reflex video was being shown. Years later… all the games you played while watching videos with your hallmates in the basement smoking recreation room of PEO Hall at Cotteyland.
Five. Metallica. That one time your hallmates got you headbanging to Enter Sandman at the Rocking K in Pittsburgh, Kansas.
Six. Calvin and Hobbes. Also Brian Kessinger’s mash-up artistry of the comic with Star Wars characters.
Seven. Neil Patrick Harris as Barney in How I Met Your Mother. And since we’re talking stupid comedy… the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory.
Eight. Peyton Manning. Also baby brother Eli. Two Superbowl-winning Giants. Pun (and sarcasm) intended.
Nine. Angelina Jolie in Playing by Heart. You LOVE her in that movie. You love EVERYONE in that movie. That movie is perfection.
Ten. Riggs and Murtaugh. Mostly Riggs, actually. But he wouldn’t be the same without his partner. Mel Gibson on the big screen. Clayne Crawford on the small one. How many times have you let those characters, those men entertain you?
Eleven. Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a film released the year of your older brother’s death, the year after you lost Adam. How many days did you escape into that story? How many times have you reveled in the glory of its craftiness that. That movie’s perfection, too.
Twelve. If you’d taken your life before December twenty-fourth of ‘two, you never would have known you could forgive your older brother.
Thirteen. If you’d taken your life before March twenty-sixth of ‘two, you never would have known that thing they call chemistry between two lovers was real and not some myth, some plot device conjured by some storyteller centuries before. You never would’ve heard a man call you, in your American Eagle rugby T-shirt and Gap boot cut jeans and your battered brown Doc Marten boots, gorgeous. You wouldn’t’ve known that you could feel contentment.
Fourteen. This is Us and Life Itself. Probably the best stories ever put on screen, big or small.
Fifteen. Jessica Chastain in Lawless. WOW. Ain’t that just like you, to believe your own damned legend. She was SO SO good in that movie. And as Celia in The Help.
Sixteen. The Lord of the Rings. All those movie marathons. The director’s cut, boxed set your younger brother gave you for Christmas one year. The peace it gave you when you felt so, so lost.
Seventeen. Elvis Presley. That voice. The hope If I Can Dream gives you. The joy of the JXL Radio Edit Remix of A Little Less Conversation. Windows down in Phineas on Gosling Road on a clear spring day… or blasting down the interstate.
Eighteen. Zoe Saldana. Simon Pegg. Karl Urban. Chris Pine. J.J. Abram’s reboot of Star Trek. Watching that in the theaters with Keli. Beating your in-theater record of most-times-viewed. All that AWESOME dialogue.
Nineteen. Aaron Rodgers launching a football a hundred yards in the air AND A hundred yards downfield into the end zone and Richard Rodgers catches it with NO time left in the game to beat NFC rival Detroit Lions.
Twenty. Sara Bareilles’ Breathe Again. What kind of heart doesn’t look back?
Twenty-One. Chris Pratt. Bradley Cooper. Vin Diesel. Dave Bautista. Karen Gillan. And, yes, Zoe Saldana. Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, you CAN enjoy something that is sheer ridiculousness.
Twenty-Two. Anthony Ervin. Dude wins the splash and dash in the Olympics at nineteen and goes back to win it again sixteen years later. You watched that… granted you saw it in the living room of your parents’ house. You watched it, and stood, gleefully, on that terrazzo floor, amazed that this man who by most accounts was past his prime could swim that length without taking one breath in the water. Splash and dash, indeed. His time at the Sydney Olympics was twenty one point nine eight. He beat that in Rio by fifty-eight hundredths. His thirty-five-year-old self beat his nineteen-year-old self. Read that as many times as you need.
Twenty-Three. Michael Phelps, Klete Keller, Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay BEAT Ian Thorpe and his goons to reclaim the four by two hundred free relay title at the Athens Olympics. You watched this in your San Antonio apartment, jumping up and down on that teak Storehouse Furniture cocktail table you’ve got in storage. You can’t bear to part with the thing because it’s got such a happy memory for you.
Twenty-Four. Jonny Lang. Your older brother went with you to see him perform with Beth Hart in Houston. That was a good day.
Twenty-Five. Von Miller. Aggie football. All those games.
Twenty-Six. One Fine Day. Watching that with your parents and brother over the holidays. Every time you watch that movie, it brings you pleasure. Every time you watch it, you think this life isn’t quite so shitty as it seems.
Twenty-Seven. Christmases at the cabin. That last one… when you weren’t hating your brother… that last one that was a sort of miracle. A respite just before the shit hit the fan.
Twenty-Eight. Summers at the monastery. That last one… when you were sitting with your great uncle on the lawn toward the road, where the big old tree used to be. The words he spoke… if only you could remember them. But they were good and true, and he believed so well of you.
Twenty-Nine. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Cold Shot. Pride and Joy. Look at Little Sister.
Thirty. Primroses on street corners. How many times have you spotted those on desolate days? Lucille put those on your antique icebox for a reason.
Thirty-One. Blueberry muffins. Oh the comfort they provide. The scent of them in the oven, the flavor of them melting in your mouth.
Thirty-Two. Coca-Cola. Dr. Pepper. Peace Tea Green Tea. Such GOOD refreshment.
Thirty-Three. Chicken spaghetti. Best comfort food ever. Such a pain in the ass to make, but oh, the result is extraordinary.
Thirty-Four. Macaroni and cheese. The kind mom makes. She means so well. She wants the best for you. Funny how she makes this — or her chicken noodle soup, for that matter — when you’re feeling especially down and out. She sees you. She might not always know how to love you well, but she does love. She does her best.
Thirty-Five. Blue Bell Ice Cream. Coffee and Dutch Chocolate and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough…
Thirty-Six. LONDON!!! All that history!!!
Thirty-Seven. Munich! All that beauty! The giant chestnut trees EVERYWHERE.
Thirty-Eight. Barcelona!! All that fun!! And the glory of Gaudi’s cathedral!
Thirty-Nine. All the effort Carmen’s making for you to help you get stronger. She LOVES you. Has thought well of you from the moment you met her at your brother’s house. She’s a GOOD friend to have.
Forty. Serena. There’s a reason Lisa asked you to help her with her class. There’s a reason Landon was there. There’s a reason God crossed your paths. She benefits from your friendship… SO many do.
Forty-One. Ranunculus. That day you were at that River Oaks flower shop, and that dude asked you what he thought of the tacky and over-priced arrangement he was going to get his girl. You suggested the radiant with charms ranunculus that cost a FRACTION of that bouquet, and he bought it. He chose to go the simpler route. Sometimes your ideas are GOLD. Sometimes you CAN convince people of their worth.
Forty-Two. Literature: The Language of Flowers; Landline; Eleanor and Park; The Fault in Our Stars; The Time Traveler’s Wife; Lovers and Dreamers. Think of all the characters you’ve yet to meet.
Forty-Three. Steel Magnolias. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.
Forty-Four. The generosity others have shown you recently.
Forty-Five. The hug your youngest cousin gave you after being too much in a crowd, too stimulated by all the things, too unable to please your younger brother. Your cousin didn’t say anything. He just smiled at you and wrapped his arms around you and held on tight in a great bear hug that lasted I-don’t-know-how-long. It was long enough to make an impression. It was long enough to bring you some semblance of peace… even if that peace was short-lived.
Forty-Six. You went zip-lining. You who is afraid of heights and falling and hurting yourself. You went zip-lining. And when you suffered a panic attack at the thought of crossing the suspension bridge, another cousin — the middle brother of the aforementioned cousin — helped you across each of those planks to the other tower, and though you’d struggled with zip-lining to the first one, you did the second one perfectly.
Forty-Seven. Splendor with friends and the kids at school.
Forty-Eight. Settlers of Catan with the bartenders at Pappadeaux’s.
Forty-Nine. Watching Green Bay lose to the Panthers in Charlotte. That was not a good day… but girl, you lucked into going to that game.
Fifty. Your niece. Your nephew.