Live Hornets in a Dead Hornets’ Nest

One of the wonderful things about a visit with my beloved brother is our conversation. Having the relationship we have means we can talk about anything and everything, and neither one of us needs to consciously prepare mentally or emotionally for whatever comes up in a conversation. Neither of us ever pre-plans topics for our time together in conversation. We just talk.

Of course, our conversations invariably cover family. It’s rather fun to be the only two ones left in what can be considered active family, because it leaves us a lot of people we can dis about without worrying who is listening and whose feelings might be offended or hurt by what we say. And both of us are pretty realistic about our family members – immediate and extended. It’s nice to have a safe place where we can talk about Uncle Fred or Aunt Janine or Cousin Alex (fictional names), and it’s an extremely precious place where we can share thoughts and feelings about parents and sibling and grandparents.

One of the several things that came up during our very recent visit together was the realization that we don’t know much about our parents’ lives before we arrived in this world. Well, we know bits and tidbits about our mom’s life before us because we had ongoing relationships with much of her side of the family. We know next to nothing about our dad, other than parent(s) and siblings and a few cousins by name. I was very young when my mom’s grandmother died, while I could tell you nothing about my dad’s grandparents, not even their names. We knew nothing about his childhood years, his high school years, his time in the service except one, that he flew planes in the Army Air Forces (a separate Air Force was not in existence at that time) and two, that he lied about being a year older than he was so he could enter the service. He joined the service and was active during a war, but we don’t know exactly how active HE was in the war. We assume he was honorably discharged at the end of his service, but that is a 100% assumption and not something we know for fact.

We talked specifically about how little we knew about our dad’s life before we entered it, but as I thought about it later, I realized we knew very little about our mom’s life as well. Both were children of the Great Depression – dad born in 1928 and mom in 1930. But childhoods were never talked about.

As I thought back even more after our visit, I began to realize that, back in those days, most lives were very secretive. My grandfather got cancer, first of the stomach and then of the voice box as well. But no one ever talked about it – I remember that the word “cancer” was a whispered word when it was spoken aloud. There seemed to be this mindset that, if you didn’t say it aloud or talked openly about it, you could, in some sense, try and pretend it wasn’t true. The same could certainly be said about mental health as well, even more so than physical health. Only in much more recent years have we begun to feel more free to talk about these things, ignoring, or in spite of, the stigma involved. And I’m sure it pisses us off in these days that such a stigma still exists – – I try but can’t imagine a time when the mere knowledge of such things as ‘cancer’ and ‘clinical depression’ were considered a sin of some sort!

So what was the purpose and the point of the silence and/or whisperings? Who were we trying to protect? It’s nice to think that silences were kept under the ideological idea that we were protecting others in some way, but I see the truth as being that the silence was a way of people protecting themselves! It was, as I see it, about people not wanting others to know something about themselves that they feared others would judge them for. As I said yet again to my brother, it was the idea that as long as the car in the driveway was relatively new and kept clean, and the lines from the lawn mower’s wheels in the grass were symmetrical, it didn’t matter if the inside of the house was a hoarding station covered in filth or the place where outrageous forms of abuse occurred. It was always about the pretenses….about what people on the outside could see.

This is the place where my brother and I became the black sheep of the family. Our older brother, Mark, adhered to those expectations with the wife and child and nice car and house with a picket fence and a well paying job that brought him both money and accolades from others. It didn’t matter if he hated his job, it didn’t matter if the house was a proverbial ‘money pit’ or if the wife was a bitch (she wasn’t) or the child was a terror (at times, she was). That wasn’t what people saw, and therefore, not how they were judged.

It’s the second half of 2021 now. Dad and Mark both died in 2015. Mom died in 1999. There is no need to protect what people thought about them while they were living their lives. Most of the people they knew who would have judged them are gone for this world as well, those still living in it are no longer a part of their, or our, lives anymore. Sadly, those few remaining ones largely have written us off as “people we used to know in another life time”. So it should be safe to say that the hornet’s nest is dead.

And yet, somehow, there are a few frisky ghost hornets who linger around it, protecting it from being beaten down and opened up for all to see the inside. Brad and I are who are left to know anything we might expect to find if it were to be broken open. And yet, we linger around that dead nest, still encrusted with the cult-fed fear that opening it up will reveal cracks in the armor of the hornet’s bodies who once lived in it, and having some sense of still wanting to protect them from being seen in the shining light of full truth and disclosure. Those hornets, though dead in body, are still very much alive in our minds, and we are stuck between wanting to know what made those hornets who they were and recognizing that there are no answers to be found to that question.

Some years ago, my dad having remarried after my mother’s passing, Brad wrote a long overdue letter to my dad to address something within our family history that was never talked about. That something was the fact that I was sexually abused by dad for a number of years. I’ve never shied away from talking about that as a fact, but I don’t go around talking about it like I’m talking about the weather. I know I am far from the only person who has ever had this happen, and while it took me a whole LOT of years, I did finally find my spot of forgiveness. Dad had been Brad’s hero, and I cost him that hero when he found out. But I ended up telling both of my brothers because they each had children and I, never understanding why I was abused, not feeling sure in my gut that he wouldn’t act that way again if he could get away with it, felt I needed to protect those two babies “just in case”. Anyhow, Brad sent his letter to dad, and I knew about it beforehand. When dad mentioned the letter to me, and I told him I knew about it, he asked me not to tell his wife about what was in the letter. I promised him that I wouldn’t bring up the subject, but assured him that I wouldn’t lie about it if I was ever asked.

At the time that had occurred, I felt really proud of myself for being able to say those words and mean them. Well, the subject of that letter and my response came back up in my recent conversation with Brad, and later on that evening, it dawned on me that the request from my dad had nothing to do with me or my feelings and very much to do with him wanting to protect himself at all costs. And now that damned hornet is buzzing around in my head again and I’m pissed off about the fact that, even then, his need to protect what other people thought of him was so much more important than what happened to me. Trust me, I will not go into detail about the many, many decisions and choices I made in my life because of that abuse. You don’t have the time to read it all and I don’t have the energy to write it all. I will only say that I wish the only affect that abuse had had on me was to have people judge me for it.

But it’s a damned ghost hornet and it’s just going to buzz around until it gets tired and leaves me alone. And in the end, it’s just going to be one more check mark on the side of the list of ways my parent(s) let me down again in order to make them feel better about themselves.

So be aware, my friends – things from your past will never leave you. You may think they are tucked away and neatly dealt with, but please know that those ghosts can – and probably will – come up throughout the rest of your life and buzz around you. Just let them happen, feel what you need to feel, and let them go back to sleep again. And be proud of yourself for knowing they are just ghosts and you no longer have to leave in the reality of their presence and their sting.

Why Falling out of love is a real thing romantic lives change over time.

This is intellectually simple to know! And it’s important to remember!

Readers choice

When you’re madly in love with someone, you likely never think about what it’d feel like to fall out of that love, but it can happen.

In fact, it’s natural over time for couples to transition from passionate to compassionate love, or a “solid and stable form of love” that can lack the fiery passion of a young relationship, according to “The Anatomy of Love,” a site run by relationship researchers. 

Long-term partners also often go through major life changes together, and those changes can affect each partner in different ways. Sometimes, those experiences can bring two people closer together, but other times, they can create distance in relationship and, as a result, feelings of love may wane.

Raising children, deciding to become sober, losing (or gaining) a lot of weight, or becoming disinterested in hobbies that you once shared with your partner can all drive a wedge in a relationship…

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Make Gratitude Your Perspective

My favorite song writer shared a new possible original with us today and asked for our thoughts. This song was both music and lyrics, something he’s just beginning to show us. I so adore his talents that it’s very rare for me not to rave, but the lyrics in this song struck a bit of a sour chord with me.

I obviously don’t have the lyrics in front of me to share them with you, or to see and re-read to make sure I remember exactly what they were. But my perception of a part of them was being told that we can choose to be positive or we can choose to be negative.

I explained later, in a message, how much I didn’t agree with that – that we don’t choose our feelings, although I did agree with the lyrics about choosing our actions and reactions. As someone who has dealt with depression (mostly always mild), I can promise you that if it were possible, when feeling negative, to just flip a switch intellectually and feel positive, I’d be first in line to do so! There is too much psycho-babble from therapists, etc., about how supposedly easy it is to change our way of feeling. And I always argue that we can change our way of thinking but that feelings do not come from our brains.

I got a response back clarifying that the writer was meaning to impart the idea of changing our mindset so that we can see and feel positive things. One of the things mentioned was, for example, to focus on the things we are grateful for, with the idea that positive thoughts will impact our mindset and that mindset might change our emotions.

I’m still working that out for myself with regards to the lyrics, but it reminded me that I do, without conscious thought, sometimes turn my focus to things for which I’m grateful. I do that whenever I’m tired of the pity-party I’m allowing myself to have. For example, sometimes I get very caught up in the constant aches, pains and other ailments that are a part of my medical being. When I get tired of listening to my internal voices whine, I consciously remind myself that I’m in much better shape than so many other people. Yes, there may be physical distress, but I’m not paralyzed and unable to feel anything. And yes, my knees may hurt at times, but my legs aren’t amputated so that my knees have no real function or purpose.

I complain about living in a 200+ old building and that things are antiquated and will probably never see modernization. I have to run the tap in the bathtub for 4 or 5 minutes before hot water starts to come out so I can take my shower. I have to rely on a window air conditioner for relief from the heat. I have to deal with old cast iron radiators for heat, which take up room in what is already a small space. But hey, I’m not homeless – I’m not sleeping on a cardboard box somewhere with no relief of any kind for any type of weather.

Those thoughts put my complaints in perspective quickly and help me to remember how much worse off I could be in so many ways. They force me to stop and really focus on what is positive in my life instead of what is negative, and I quickly move away from my “woe is me” mindset.

So, in that sense – in what he intended the lyrics to mean – I absolutely agree with the message and I look forward to hearing the song again with that in mind. I’m sure I’ll appreciate it much more.

Meanwhile, this chance to think about how gratitude can change our perspective is something we all need to learn how to do. I’m not saying that, at times, our lives don’t “suck”, but if we take a moment to think consciously about how others are suffering more than we are – at whatever we’re suffering – it changes how important we perceive our suffering in a way that makes the suffering at least bearable.

So, what do you find yourself complaining about? Think about people who have it worse than you do, and I promise you’ll feel better!

Wednesday’s Wisdom

When I read this blog, my first thoughts were “Been there, done that”. The struggle to become authentically me was a deep from which I needed to climb. Sometimes I still let a little too the edge of it, so I guess it will be something I will always need to be conscious of.

Just Being Me

There’s not much I need to add to this wisdom really. I guess it resonates with me because for a long time I tried to be the person I thought I needed to be. The person I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I did this to the extent that I didn’t really know who I actually was any more. I lost myself while trying to be what I thought I should be. Losing yourself is hard and it’s not helpful in the long run. Now I’m trying to find myself again. I’m trying to discover who I really am and to be real.

Does this resonate with you? Have you ever tried to be someone you’re not to please others, or for some other reason? Let me know in the comments. 😊

I’m always reading something or other. Books, social media feeds, study notes, blogs and more. Recently…

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When is a bowl not a bowl?

In 1987, I had major surgery. It was a scheduled surgery, at least. I had trouble finding the food in the hospital at all tolerable, so after surgery, I ate next to nothing. A nutritionist nurse came to see me on my third full day after surgery because failure to consume food was the only thing keeping me from discharge. I finally asked if they could bring me a boiled hot dog (not my favorite way to cook a hot dog, but pretty difficult to mess up) and I ate it when it arrived.

I was released from the hospital within 2 hours. I had to have weekly follow-ups with the surgeon for 6 weeks, and after 48 hours, I could shower. I was bandaged pretty well, and supposed to change the bandages no more than 3 days between. Well, lucky me got multiple infections across the surgery site (remember, this was 1987 and there weren’t the breakthroughs of today’s technology, so we’re talking a major incision). At one point, the surgery site looked so bad to me that I couldn’t stand to look at it long enough to change the bandages. Fortunately, I had friends who rode with the local fire company ambulance and several of them helped me. I also ended up going to the surgeon’s office twice weekly, so I didn’t have to deal with it much on my own.

Six months later – yes, six months, half a year – I was finally released from care. It took me several years until I could finally accept the scars that were now a permanent part of my body, made worse because the infections I had ate away at my skin. It’s not a pretty sight, but it is what it is.

What does that have to do with a ceramic bowl, you wonder??? During my stay in the hospital, I received a flower arrangement from a truly dear friend. My husband brought me nothing, friends sent nothing – not even a get-well card, and even the company I worked for sent nothing. In that regard, the flower arrangement became even more significant. Once the flowers had died, the bowl was washed thoroughly and put in the cupboard with other bowls.

That bowl has traveled with me through 6 moves since I’ve had it. There isn’t a time when I take it out of the cupboard that I don’t remember from where – and whom – it came. The person, already a dear person and good friend when I received those flowers, continued to be a strong and active person in my life until passing away.

I remember, when I lived with a roommate before moving here, that I’d sometimes see the bowl in the sink, having been used by said roommate, and always having a fleeting thought of relief that it hadn’t been broken. Don’t get me wrong – it was an oft-used bowl, but my roommate wasn’t the most careful people I know. I’d think sometimes about how I’d react if it were accidentally broken by the roommate, and every time I’d think about it, I’d feel some sense of anger, not because a bowl was broken, but because that bowl had been broken.

Sure, there was a chance it would be ME who would actually break it, and yes, I’d have been angry at myself about it as well. But even now (more than 5 years after my move), how quickly I can feel the anger rise inside me when I visualize this person breaking that bowl.

I’m continuing on this project of sorting through pictures, and recently came upon a photograph of the floral arrangement in the bowl as it was when I received it. I’m certain that’s what sparked all of the feelings I’m having about it now. I didn’t keep the picture, didn’t even scan it. The same is true of quite a few photos I came across that would have no significance to anyone other than me. Besides, I still have the bowl; in fact, I used it yesterday.

My title for this post might be misleading, since it is a bowl and it will always be a bowl. But it’s a significant treasure to me more than just its usefulness. And, because it has a usefulness and is, indeed, used regularly, it isn’t something I feel obligated to give away in a donations box as I try to simplify my life because it has no purpose. In fact, it might be the first thing I’ve come upon that has a usefulness, not just a meaningful significance! So, sorry, brother dearest, it’s staying with me!

Bind Your Tears

My brother once again aims for the nail and hammers it with one swing!

commonsensiblyspeaking



~~~

Do not cry for me, dear friend

Let not sorrow rule the day

Life chimes, now at its end

And my body has gone away

~~~

I travel now, a different path

In a world you cannot see

Spirit sheds the mortal plane

Soul finally set free

~~~

I have returned to the start

My universal home

And you are there within my heart

As this larger realm I roam

~~~

And I still with you, in everything

In every cloud, each stone and tree

When you need to feel me close

Just look and you’ll find me

~~~

I am thankful for my mortal time

And all the love you made me feel

And though my face seen differently

I am no less me and no less real

~~~

Now, bind your tears with my love

Share my joy that I lived well

I have found my cosmic…

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Why Some people push away the people they love?

This blog post is very intimate in my own life of love.

Readers choice

I’m sorry, I love you, but I have to leave you. You were the right choice, but not my ‘happy’ choice.”—Hallie Mantegna

What?! Did I hear you correctly? If you love me, why are you leaving me? I am definitely missing a piece of this puzzle.

But as it turns out, you may not be missing anything. Sometimes, love and life clash. Usually, this conflict can be traced to one of two issues: (1) Romantic reasons that have to do with the nature of one’s love, and (2) Reasons concerning the flourishing life of the partners.“I love you, but not strongly enough.”

“I love you, but not strongly enough.”

“There is a difference between someone who wants you and someone who would do anything to keep you. Actions speak louder than wishes.”—Unknown

Romantic love is not an all-or-nothing attitude — it comes in different degrees. Some degrees…

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Traveling down Memory Lane

Closer to two than one year(s) ago, I decided it was time to sort out the boxes and boxes – and boxes and boxes – of photos, souvenirs and trinkets that I’ve collected over these many years. I passed on photos that I thought would be more meaningful to the people in them, and I finally said finally goodbyes (with some tears) to objects that reminded me of some previous ‘romantic’ relationships. I admit that I was in a funk for several days after that part of the project, and had to fight myself not to pull things back out of the trash so I could look at or handle them just one more time.

I tried sorting what I had left, which filled up 1-1/2 of the boxes, and began the process of scanning them. I had to purchase a stand-alone scanner. Those of you who already know how technologically challenged I am can imagine how long THAT took to set up and get working! I managed to get through about 10% of the stuff I had saved, and then I lost interest in the project.

New Year’s goals (not resolutions) included getting the rest of these items scanned into my laptop and then onto a thumb drive. I’ve finally recently started back on this project. Of course, I had to learn – all over again – how to connect and use the scanner!

As I write this, I am about 45% through scanning what is left from my past part of the project. I needed some additional sorting, and will continue to sort into ‘categories’ as I scan them, so I’ll know what’s what on the thumb drive. And, many of you probably know that, when you scan a photo, it assigns it some long sequential number, which means going into each photo after it’s scanned and renaming it so it makes sense and can be placed in some kind of proper order. It is a tedious task, but the longer I do more in one sitting, the easier it gets to be to remember the sequences to follow. I now have 5 different categories scanned, renamed and put onto the thumb drive.

Recently, I divided up all of my parental photos – separating out mom alone, dad alone and mom and dad together. At first I was a little surprised to see how few I had of dad alone, but then remembered that he was usually the one behind the camera. I’ve gotten the ones of my mom scanned and renamed so I had some sense of chronological sequence. I also decided to share them on my Facebook page, knowing that family and friends who knew my mom might enjoy seeing them. It was a bit laborious, but it was truly a labor of love. It’s wonderful to look at them all – in chronological order – and get a visual story of my mom. The earliest photo I have of her was from when she was 3 or 4, and I have a few from her growing up, her college graduation, but most of them are from times I remember.

I didn’t experience any kind of emotional feelings – at least none that I became conscious of – during the several hours it took to complete the project. I did experience a sense of satisfaction that I now had those priceless memories on the Internet cloud where they could remain forever. But later that afternoon, I found myself feeling a little bit empty inside. I could have been feeling that way for several reasons (which I could name); I only know that, while I was thrilled to share them on Facebook and received a lot of views and comments, I felt at the same time that, by sharing them that way, I had given away something that, until then, was all mine and significantly special.

And then, to give my brain a break while I was writing this, I looked for a possible photo to use as my feature photo for this post, and stumbled across this:

My attitude suddenly shifted! I realized that, although I had to share the photos with others, the memories from those photos do not belong to those people. And, by posting them as an album on Facebook, I can now travel down memory lane more often that I did all of those years having a mix-n-match pile of photographs in boxes on a high-up shelf in a spare room closet.

It has also been a blessing to have family and friends who knew my mom react with love to her photos. Many of us don’t keep in a lot of contact with each other, and this has helped me feel re-connected to those people.

So, the project will continue, and, I suspect become a little easier during the rest of the process. And I’m starting to be a little bit excited of crossing this project off as completed on my goal list for the year!

That is, of course, until the lack of energy shuts me down again….

United

I’m borrowing the title for this blog post from a yet unreleased original song by the same name. In fact, it is the chorus lyrics in this song that have inspired this post. The song was written, music and lyrics, by an up-and-coming Australian singer/songwriter who was classically trained on the piano for ten years and recently decided to stretch his love of music to all genres. His name is Dom La Ferlita. His originals (all instrumental) are available on Spotify. Recordings of his covers of songs can be found on You Tube. And you’ll find me occasionally sharing his original music here because I feel that other ears need to experience it.

It is almost the 20th anniversary of the events of 9/11 – and anyone who was alive at that time will ne’er forget the events, nor the actions and reactions in the days and months that followed.

And united we were after that fateful day. No division by race, color, gender, sexual preference, political party preference – just Americans who came together to fight against terrorists who sought to take down our great country. If you remember what followed, then you remember that we joined hands, did what we could, didn’t think about refusing to help someone of a different race, etc.

I’ve said more than once, and maybe even in a past blog post here, that seeing our country so truly divided makes me wonder if we need another “kick in the butt” to wake up and realize that we, as the song lyrics say, “all have the same blood in our veins”. It’s actually that line that hit me the last time I heard the song.

If, hypothetically, you needed a blood transfusion to save your life, would you honestly CARE about race, color, sexual or political preference of the donor whose blood you are receiving? If you needed an organ donation and one became available to you, would you turn it down if you knew the donor was of a different race, religion, culture, etc.? HELL, NO! Why then, if you are willing to accept blood or an organ or, in some way, the gift of life without thought to from where it comes, do you otherwise hold people who are ‘different’ than you in some regard as ‘inferior’ or with ‘less value’???

I live every day with a little niggling fear inside me that our country is more susceptible to an outside attack than we were 20 years ago. We are so divided, and we’ve added political division to the list of ways we’ve always been divided. If we don’t figure out – and soon – how to “live and let live”, we have only ourselves to blame for what happens to us and to our country in our future. It took me a long while after the events of 9/11 to feel safe enough again to go back to living life. I don’t know if I have the energy to do that again!

Please, I beg of everyone, it’s time to accept that we are all different in many ways, but we all choose to live our lives in the places where we are, and peace can only be truly found when we learn to co-exist despite those differences! I can’t wait until this song gets released….and you have my promise that I will put a link to it here, and on all of my social media, in the hopes that more people will listen and ask themselves if they need to be more accepting of their fellow human! Remember, first and foremost, we are the HUMAN RACE!

Thoughts?

Superheroes

If I asked you to name a superhero, there is a good chance that your first instinct would be to say “Superman”. Superman first made his appearance in comic books in 1938 and has been actively in our presence through today. There were animated cartoons on Saturday morning when I was a child, and then movies with actors and even a TV series (I adore Dean Cain, so he was my favorite!). Although I don’t know for certain, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that there’s even a video game for gamers today revolving about this superhero.

But, if I asked you to name your superhero, what would your answer be? Would you even have an answer? For many of us as children, “dad” was considered to be the superhero of the family. But not every child had or knew of their dad, through whatever circumstances. A relative or close family friend could have somewhat taken over the role as “dad”, even a stepdad, but that’s not always the same. And sadly, not all dads were superhero material.

I don’t recall ever recognizing that I had a superhero in my life. My dad, who was absent from home so much for work as it was, also did some things during my childhood that made it impossible for me to look at him as any kind of hero. He was smart, intelligent, capable of fixing a lot of broken things, and he paid the bigger share of keeping a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs and food in our stomach. But I must have thought even back then, as I do now, that those things are a parent’s responsibility when you choose to raise a child. And, in my case, my dad did actually choose to give me his last name and take the responsibility for my upbringing (no doubt, my mother was quite persuasive in his decision). I know there are parents out there who don’t even provide for their child/children’s basic needs, but doing so is the expected “norm”.

It dawns on me that the word “superhero” in terms of actual people isn’t anything but fantasy. We have our share of heroes – think events of 9/11 or the nurses, doctors and other essential workers who put their lives on the line during this COVID pandemic – but is there a way to differentiate between “hero” and “superhero” for any of those people? Every person who has or is serving in the branches of our armed services literally signs the right to their life away upon taking the oath to be sworn in, and aren’t they all heroes simply for being willing to do so?

Oddly, what I remember most about the Superman I grew up with was his ability to step into a telephone booth as Clark Kent, whirl around in a vortex, and exit as Superman. And don’t you DARE ask what a telephone booth is or I will smite you! Maybe I actually need to see the transformation of an ordinary person into someone with extraordinary powers in order to understand the definition of superhero.

I am lucky to have a hero in my life – not a superhero, but a true hero. He is someone who will draw his sword at and slay dragons he can’t even see because he knows I can see them. He has the uncanny ability to see me from the inside out. Like me, he will fight for what he believes in, but doesn’t judge someone for believing differently. Like me, he’s learned to choose his battles and has learned to discover how few of them matter in the big picture. I know that he would kill for me, that he would die for me.

He wasn’t always my hero. We butted heads a lot over the years, and there were times I wanted to shake him by the shoulders (probably times he wanted to do the same to me!). But for all of his faults and flaws, he remains steadfast and true to himself, and he cares for me more than I probably deserve. And I am lucky because the person I call “hero” I also call “friend”. And this person I call “friend” I also call “brother”.

I don’t have wealth, am not and will never be famous or become a celebrity. But if anyone wants to be envious about me for any reason, be envious of the fact that I have a relationship with my brother that I know is rare and precious. And even though he doesn’t step into a telephone booth and exit it wearing a cape, he is the closest thing I’ve ever known as being a superhero in reality.

Love you with all that I am, Brad