Ever since my brother got engaged 4 months ago, I have been thinking about my rehearsal dinner toast. But every time I sit down to write, my attempts come up feebly short and I go back to mainlining M&Ms and coffee. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I have been at a loss for words (this is the fourth in case you’re curious) and I don’t know why. It might be because I subconsciously feel the need to overcompensate for the absence of our witty and eloquent father, who no doubt would have given the greatest toast ever. It might be because I am trying to figure out how to get through the whole thing without blubbering.
Or it might just be because there are no words that have yet been invented to tell this boy how much I love him.
Of how he always made me feel important. How he let me read to him and feed him and lead him around by the hand when he was a toddler. How he almost cried with excitement that I had driven 10 hours through the night just to be at his state swimming championship. How he let me cook him dinner or do his laundry when he was in college because it made me feel better. Or how he called me to run through his proposal before he did it for real.
Of how even the worst nights turned into the best stories. Like the time he threw up on me at the Plaza Hotel. Or the time we somehow ended up in the middle of a knife fight on the Paris Metro. Or the Great Father’s Day Incident of 1997.
Of how we have always understood each other in a way that no one else can. Like when he was a baby and had a language all his own that only I could decipher. How we can finish each other’s sentences. How he can make me laugh without saying a word. Or how we laid on the ground next to each other that night in Cape Cod, holding hands and looking up at the stars and reliving every big and beautiful moment we have ever shared with our dad.
Of how his heart is so big. Like the time he chased down a man in the pouring rain in Venice to buy me a flower. Or the night he sat with me for hours when I thought my 21-year-old heart was broken forever, patiently listening, thoughtfully giving me advice, and finally offering to just “call some guys” and take care of the whole situation. I still to this day don’t know whether he was actually joking about that.
Of what an amazing uncle he is. How he taught the boys to throw a spiral. How he plays Sea Monster with them in the pool. How he drew mustaches on their fingers last Christmas Eve. How he comes to their school plays and reads them books in silly voices. How he found such an incredible woman to be be their aunt. (My apologies in advance if one of them tries to snake her at the altar). How he loves them as if they were his own.
Of how he reminds me so much of my daddy. How the two of them have always been my everything. My protectors. My champions. My first loves. They picked me up every time I had my heart broken (and good grief there were many). They told me I was smart and pretty and they made me believe it. They taught me that every question in life can be answered by a quote from “The Godfather” or “Animal House.” And they showed me – every day – that men are not great because of their accomplishments or the money in their bank account or the honors they are bestowed. Truly great men, once in a lifetime men, are the ones with the biggest capacity to love.
For the longest time, I thought they had ruined my chance at finding love because there was never anyone as smart or funny or kind as they were. But now I know they were just reminding me what to wait for. Who to wait for.
Conventional wisdom is that younger children revere their older siblings with unparalleled adoration. But it goes both ways. My dear little brother, I know that you think I am Dad but I wish you could see that it’s you who is just like him.
I still don’t have a toast. I have now wasted what little time I have left procrastinating by writing this instead. And I have eaten four pounds of M&Ms, just enough to make squeezing into my dress a bit of a dicey proposition. I have no idea what will come out of my mouth when I stand up tomorrow night. But I do know that whatever it is won’t come close to telling him how much I love him. Because those words just haven’t been invented yet.