The best man


Today was my brother Darron’s birthday. And this is a photo of his wedding last month to a lovely woman named Maggie.

I wasn’t there.

Barely more than a week earlier, I got the phone call from the local China visa office.

Despite my supplying a written job description of my work as a designer and copy editor and I signing a sworn statement I would not perform anything related to my work while in China, the Chinese consulate would not issue me a tourist visa until after a scheduled Oct. 26 face-to-face meeting at the consulate in Houston. Apparently, the government is extremely nervous about the fact that I work in the newspaper business.

My flight was scheduled for Oct. 2. Darron’s wedding was Oct. 7.

I may never go to China after this. I am certain I’d need to make the requested in-person interview, but these people made me miss my only brother’s wedding. I cannot imagine my anger would go unnoticed. I can’t imagine they would issue the visa.

So this is something like the speech I would have made as the best man had the Chinese government been less terrified of a free press.


I’ve known you all your life.
Mom says I greeted you warmly, but also that, being about age 2, regressed a little bit. So it’s not a huge stretch to say we’ve grown up together.

We shared most everything when we were younger. We shared our toys — even though some were definitely YOURS and mine were definitely MINE. We shared wild imaginative worlds together. We shared those frequent moves between towns and schools and clung to each other through the sadness of parting and the greeting of new experiences. We shared those gaming and TV and movie viewing experiences. We even shared the same college experience, at least part of it. And of course all those private jokes.

But also of course, you couldn’t share it all forever. Even when we were small, you were ever the one looking to the horizon, ready to travel far and wide and deeply, while I was happier in one place.

Still, you’ve always kept us close even when far away and, when you could, returned home. And it was literally a life saver for me that one September night.

It came as no surprise, but you definitely showed you’d become a superb man. Courageous. Gentle. Calm. Responsible. Kind. Intelligent. Beautiful. Funny.

And now you’re one more thing: married.

I know you’ll be kind to Maggie. You had the courage to court her, the gentleness and responsibility to do it right and well.

(I only have one bit of counsel: Do try to tone some of your outbursts down when you’re trying to make a point.)

If you love her even half as much as you’ve loved me, she’ll never feel unloved. Ever.

“I don’t know you at all.” That’s what I want to say.

But actually, it’s not true. I already know a few things about you, even though we’ve never met in person, just had a couple of Facetime chats.

I know you’re kind. Darron could never fall in love with someone who was unkind.

I know you’re responsible. Darron couldn’t spend his life with someone reckless.

I know you’re intelligent. Which is good because Darron likes intellectual conversation. (But don’t be shocked if he gets super silly. Because he does. Frequently.)

I know you’re beautiful. I’ve seen the pictures and had the aforementioned Facetime. And more importantly, your soul is beautiful.

I know you’re a good person because you love Darron. And I love YOU because you love Darron.

I know you’ll be kind to him. He’s a gentle soul, one more easily wounded than one would think due to his outward strength. It’s that gentleness, I think, that drew you to him.

He’s the best man. You’ve married my best friend. And I’ve gained a precious sister — one I can’t wait to meet.

I do have one more bit of counsel: Please bear with his funny but embarrassing habit of making sound effects for emphasis when he’s amused. Because he will.


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