*My nephew's birthday is today. He is not here, in this place, to celebrate, and no one ever adapts to that loss in life. Being able to reflect on him through sharing of memories is a balm to me. I thank you all for the love you've sent me today as I remember him and feel the void of his absence. It is community that carries us through, the kind compassion of those who listen to stories about loss. Thank you.
I was going through my family photos, looking for pictures of my nephew to give to my sister. My eyes were blurry with tears, but I still was able to see through to picture after picture of him, always in one setting – a party in our house.
This is what I had of Tommy. Photos with balloons! party hats! table streamers! The funny thing is, I don't remember having all of these parties growing up. My family was not a celebrating bunch. My childhood home would best be described as quiet, heavy, tense.
But here in my hand, I had over 20, 30, more pictures showing him with his arms raised, a beaming smile, and there he is, at the center of it all. I mean, how many childhood birthday parties can you have when you only have one birthday a year??
The one common denominator in every picture is that Tommy is there. HE was the party. HE would turn any occasion into a slice of life. You see him, in the moment, the joy, arms up because he couldn't keep them down, over the occasion of being with people he loved.
My nephews would spend weekends with us. I was 12 and the main baby sitter, the one who would take care of them. One day as I made lunch, 3 year old Tommy stood on his tip toes and watched me slice up an apple. He looked up with wide eyes; waving his arms up and down and began shouting, "Are we having an apple party?! It's an apple party, isn't it?!" This, over getting apple wedges rather than a whole apple on a plate. He worked the same magic on bananas, oranges, pears. Any fruit could be a fruit party.
Nothing was ordinary to Tommy. I would come home with tangerines, the ones called "cuties" that come in those miniature wooden crates. He loved these because he could build a Hot Wheels parking garage with them. “You bought the baby oranges that come in the Hot Wheel house!" he would meet me at the door, tugging at my coat.
This is who he was, and not just to me. My entire family beamed when Tommy was there. Mention his name to anyone now, and before a word is spoken about him, a smile first appears. Laughter, joy, pura vida, with him making it so.
Growing up, I see we didn't have a lot of parties after all – what we had was a lot of HIM.
For a family that lived in a reserved and walls up manner, he gave us permission to forget why for awhile. We felt life, we were among the living, when Tommy was there.
Tommy, you brought raucousness, the energy of the moment, into a house where the air felt as heavy as bricks. You were light and presence and when we were around you, there was a reason to blow up balloons, put on the party hats, and crank the noise makers.
You were with us, and you made everything a celebration.
You made our world shine so bright.
We will miss you in a way it will take a lifetime to understand.
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