He was born when I was seven, just thirteen months after Andy, and just before our dad went to prison, robbing Michael of even one decent father-son memory. His childhood, like mine, can be summed up in tragedy and loss and, though he was too young to remember most of it, I know it greatly shaped his life. The year following Andy's death, as my mom began to surface from her grieving, she asked my sister and me who in the world had been taking care of Michael. Though my sister deserves a lot of credit for standing in the gap, the answer was that Mom had been. So, though she was taking care of his physical needs, Michael was without the emotional presence of our mother for quite some time. It was a hard time for all of us.
Michael adapted and he and I became good friends--except when he played in my makeup and wrote on the mirror with my Bonne Bell lip gloss. He and I would look through my yearbooks as he told me which of the girls from my class were foxes and which were hounds. I put him in ridiculous poses and used Mom's Polaroid to snap pictures--some of which I'm now finding in Mom's old attic boxes. He was a good kid, very sweet and smart as a whip. Mom enrolled him in a Montessori school and he passed all the other kids up, which challenged the teachers to keep him occupied. He and I always got along but I moved away for a foreign exchange program in high school, and we started to grow apart after that.
Our whole family went their separate ways to some extent. Mom remarried (which ended in divorce) while Michael was the last one living at home. Later, Mom met the love of her life and tried to make a long distance relationship work. Michael was coming of age and was doing the types of things any young man left alone to rule the roost on weekends would do. As a result, my Christian lifestyle wasn't appealing to him in the least and, though he graciously listened to the simple presentation of the gospel John and I gave him during our first year as Christians, he clearly had a lot more fun to attend to than we could offer. I didn't see much of him but prayed for him often.
Since we moved to Texas, the stress of my mother's situation and the thread of dysfunction already running through our family have taxed my relationship with Michael. We hadn't seen each other for almost a year when he called John earlier this month for a meeting where he expressed his desire to be reunited with our family. He said he and his new wife had been going to church for the past six months, and he wanted John to baptize him. Monday night we went to the pool at the rec center where John works, and God gave my brother back to me. He said he was sorry for losing a year, and so am I, but I prefer to look at what I gained--a brother, a sister-in-law, and two and a half cousins. (They are expecting their third child.)
I've used words to convey this story to you, but words cannot express the joy in my heart, knowing my brother and I will spend an eternity together in the presence of God. I love you, Michael. Happy birthday for turning thirty-five today, and happy birthday for being born again last week.