In less than a week, I’ll be 28. In less than a month, I’ll mark one full year in South Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. While I want to resist the customary urge to introspection – if only to spare the maudlin results – they call them milestones for a reason and part of me desires an opportunity to take stock. Here goes:
* My younger brother will graduate college in three days. He’s a brilliant, curious young man, with a cache of different talents and skills. He can play the harmonica, write a paper on cephalopod sonics, and volunteers at an inner-city school gardening project. Women love him because, despite his intelligence, he so clearly leads his life with his heart. Guys love him because his character reminds them of their grandfather: moral and strong, wise beyond his years, and fun. His joie de vivre is contagious the way a puppy entices you to play. He is my best friend.
* My older brother will be married this time next year. A stronger, more capable man I have not met. Generous of love and spirit, he is a born leader and men have always admired him, women adored him. He brings confidence and care to all his undertakings because he understands that a man is not defined by clothes or cars, but by the quality of his character and the respect he shows for that which cannot possibly benefit him. He is loyal and loving, and I have always looked to him for help and advice, just as he has always been there for me when I needed him. He is a man in the very purest sense, and my best friend.
* My parents will celebrate 38 years of marriage this August and I have never seen their bond more brawny. Through the ebb and flow of the years their union has endured, flexing to repel the weathering of time. Theirs is a story of the power of love, to cleanse and to restore. They have experienced great pleasure, exulting at the birth of three children, successful careers, and lives well-lived. No child had parents more tender, thoughtful, or supportive. They have loved their boys as God must have loved the first man: giving first of their bodies and then their souls. They have shared the world with each other and with their children and so their family has never wanted for anything but the warmth of yet another embrace.
I will turn 28 on Friday and though without love or a career of my own, George Moore’s words have never rung truer: “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.”