On my brother’s wedding day, his best man’s grandfather unexpectedly passed away. Given his close relationship to the family, my brother felt this loss significantly, but also found himself without a best man and, therefore, without a proper toast. I thought a great deal about my desire to step up and fill the need. But despite what people may think about writers, we rarely have beautiful words roll off our tongues or onto the page. We craft every phrase, every sentence—obsessively and meticulously. So in the end, anxiety got the best of me, and I sat quietly.
The events of that evening are actually a fine representation of the way in which my brother and I grew up together. Despite his being younger, most people knew me as Jason Trabert’s sister. He was gregarious, to say the least, jabbering with all the neighbors, young and old alike. Meanwhile, I sat in the basement reading classic literature like A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre. People have often (and incorrectly) interpreted my introversion and focus as stoicism, even pretentiousness. But Jason…almost everybody loves Jason, and usually gives him more credit than he gives himself.
Had I been brave enough on his wedding day, I would have told everybody of his kindness, his generosity, his talent, his unwavering work ethic, his selflessness, his strength and courage, and his forgiving nature. The above photograph, as a matter of fact, was taken on his wedding day, and shows him engaging with a stranger on the street, before taking his Starbuck’s drink order and returning with coffee and food for the man. My brother will give freely, no questions asked, no judgment passed. He seems to keep no account of others’ wrongs. He will give his time, his energy, his talent, and his compassion, though people often take advantage of it, and he brushes their selfishness aside.
When I was financially struggling my way through college, working for minimum wage and taking on two majors, I had forgotten to renew my license plates and received a ticket as a result. My brother, then a senior in high school, paid the ticket with the money he made working part-time. When I was a grad student co-organizing various events to raise awareness of sexual violence, he walked a mile in high heels for a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event with which I was associated. When I struggled with some health issues, he came to pick me up and drive me back home to the doctor, treating me as if I might break while also making me laugh with his incessant jokes about my feebleness. These are just a few of my favorite memories of our siblinghood.
But, of course, this is not just about his interactions with me. When our grandfather had to have surgery and I had to return to work out of state, my brother took over the role as caregiver, stopping by our grandparents’ house every morning to help with daily hygiene and wound dressing before heading to work—often working at least 12 hours a day. When his father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, my brother built him a special room where he could still work from home. When my brother saw a man in a wheelchair struggling down a hospital hallway, he offered to push him where he needed to go, despite his uncertainty as to how his offer would be received. (To offer help could be ableist and offensive; to not offer help could be cruel. And the man did accept the offer of assistance.) When he saw someone struggling to load their truck in a Lowe’s parking lot, he went over and helped the person get situated.
More generally, he has often used his construction talents to help those with disabilities. He keeps an ear out for what someone may need, whether it be a piece of furniture or assistance moving. Despite the fact that the Type 1 diabetes he’s battled since he was five years old often leaves him feeling less than ideal, he’s always looking to make someone else’s life better, even if he lessens a burden for just a moment. My brother would likely tell you that he’s “just average.” But in many ways, he’s extraordinary, and the world would undoubtedly be a better place if more people lived like he does.
One of my first blogs was about “living life like Laura,” who died of breast cancer at the age of 33. I stand by that notion. But Laura’s philanthropy was often obvious, linked to volunteer work, documented on resumes and organizations’ websites and in the awards with which she was presented. My brother’s philanthropy is usually much quieter; so I would also say to live life like Jason.
I don’t know exactly when it started, but for most of my life, I’ve called my brother “Jaybird.” Though the term is often used to describe people who talk incessantly—and we’ve established that my brother talks to a lot of people—I would say he’s grown quieter, maybe more introspective, with age. I imagine him with the weight of the world on his shoulders and yet still fluttering from place to place helping people, sometimes being admired from afar and sometimes going completely unnoticed and under-appreciated. Either way, he doesn’t notice, continuing to do what’s natural to him.