Last weekend my mother graduated college. For the first time in half
a year, all my siblings were together, and we celebrated my brother's
birthday the night before commencement. On the plane ride back, I
started editing some of the photos from the weekend to post online once
I got home. Some really nice ones of my sisters, a great one of my
mother in her cap and gown, one of all of us and our significant
others that will get handed down to the next generations.
I came to one of my brother. It was a little out of focus, but it was him.
The birthday party was at his house, which he's had for a little over
two years now. He seems to have paused for a moment to take in the
scene, possibly to look at his lovely wife.
I start editing the photo, deciding to blur the background and try
to bring him further into the foreground. On the background layer, I
start erasing everything that is him. After removing the larger blocks,
I start working on his outline.
My brother and I have had a tumultuous relationship. We're only a
year apart. We've shared rooms and sports teams. I even impersonated
him once at a wrestling meet. He instigated my first alcoholic drink.
We ran together from cops breaking up a party.
We didn't really get along until he went off to college and our
parents got divorced. He often expresses disapproval at many mundane
things about me: clothing, haircut, how often I visit my
grandmother. I've often condescended him in his choice to move back to
the town where we grew up to be a teacher.
As I remove more and more of his image, and have to start really
sensing the subtle changes in color between Patrick and Not-Patrick. I
start noticing smaller details: the angle of his thumb, the shape of
his ear. I try not to pay attention to the lovely ringlets of my
sister's hair... she's just background right now. I need to focus on my
brother. I often flip on the original layer to check my work.
I've often praised him, though probably not often enough in his
presence. He knew what he wanted when he was 16. Looking up to the
strong, fulfilled man who taught us American History. Looking up to
the powerful, distinguished man who taught us wrestling. Knowing that
his life was better for the adults who took the time to spend with him
and work to make him stronger, demonstrating he was worthwhile.
Applying filters and color transformations, trying to bring out
the best in him, I drift back to his wedding. Beautiful day, beautiful
church, beautiful bride. I enjoyed my role as Best Man, greeting
family and making sure everything was ready. He wasn't nervous, he was
anxious. He and she had spent months getting their lives together,
planning this celebration, and he just wanted to get to the best part.
They're expecting their first child now. I worried he was taking
our parents' divorce too hard. It took a few years to get through
Christmas without tears and slamming doors. Looking at his face a
little longer before I save the file, it's only now that I realize he's
done the hard work: building a life he could trust again.