“Amanda, light of my life …” I can hear his deep bass voice sing. I close my eyes and drift back to childhood when he would pick up his guitar and start singing this song to me. I know the rest of the words aren’t very appropriate for a brother to sing to his sister, but it doesn’t matter where I am, I hear those five words, “Amanda, light of my life,” and I feel special. Loved.
He taught me to love music, to listen to the different aspects. The bass, the lead guitar, the piano, the melody. My first experiences of watching live music were of street fairs on warm summer nights in small town West Texas where he and his band would play and I would sit with my parents drinking sweet tea out of a mason jar listening to the smooth harmony of his quartet. “There are stars in the Southern sky…,” the first line of Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles, always gives me chills. I can hear his voice in the deep bass chords.
He was always big and powerful, bold and mighty. At 6 feet tall, he towered over the rest of my brothers and my parents. Being fourteen years older than I, he was always and still is big to me. My big brother.
He called me “baby girl” and “precious little gem.” And even though he was partially poking fun at how spoiled I was, I know there was a little endearment in those words.
He took me to Six Flags once when I was thirteen. Just the two of us, and we rode every roller coaster and screamed and cheered and laughed. And lived.
We saw The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd one night when I was in my twenties. We laughed and smiled and danced and puffed and passed. He never knew I spoke (poquito) Spanish until I started a conversation with two people visiting from Spain. He still brags to people about that.
When I visited him in California for my thirtieth birthday, we stumbled upon an 80’s cover band and spent the evening dancing and singing along to every song at the tops of our lungs to bad hair band music. “You know all the words,” he shouted at me over the crowd. That night, we witnessed the most incredible head-butt either of us have or will ever see when we met Ned the Bastard, Andy the Bitch, and Stevegnan. They will forever hold a special place in our hearts and our late night conversations.
I didn’t even realize it, but he became one of my best friends. Who would have thought that when we were born fourteen years apart?
This past Saturday night, I sat on the living room floor of his house. He picked up his guitar, and he started playing. “Amanda,” he sang. I smiled and joined in with the harmony, “light of my life.” When the song was over, we began brainstorming songs, something so natural for my family, and together, we sort of figured them out. It goes something like this:
“What’s that song that…?”
“Oh, is this it?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. That.”
He played and sang lead. I harmonized. My dad got out his harmonica and joined in. I don’t sing in front of people, but I never feel scared to sing in front of my family, and while my mom sat on the couch and listened, my brother, my dad, and I made music. Probably off key, but in that moment I was a little girl again sitting in my childhood home watching him at the piano playing Chicago’s “Hard for Me To Say I’m Sorry,” as I quietly sang with him in the background. He probably didn’t even know I was there. But in that moment, on Saturday night, in his living room with my sweet family, life was perfect.
Then Tuesday I got a text from my dad. A group text to god knows who saying something about his son having cancer and prayers and who really even cares what it said?
It said my brother’s name. And it said cancer.
I called my brother immediately before I finished reading the text. He confirmed that it’s true.
Aside from the turbulent pounding in my chest, the world stopped.
We’ve always joked about running away together. When life is ever challenging, we send each other a text that usually says, “Phuket?” And then the other says, “Yep, Phuket.”
I want to run away. I want to hide from the possibilities, the questions, and the fear. And I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “F*ck you, cancer.”
But more than anything, I want to go back to Saturday night when everything was perfect.
“Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn from here and go.
Running like a child from these warm stars.
Down the Seven Bridges Road
There are stars in the Southern Sky
And if ever you decide you should go
There is a taste of thyme – sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road” Seven Bridges Road, The Eagles