When I was very small February 28th had little significance to me. How could it? It was simply another day in my very large portion of forthcoming days. I was young and would live forever, February 28th would be there as well. After five years of coexisting alongside February 28th with no thought for it, an exciting event happened of which I have no recollection. My parents tell it like this:
I wake up and go to school, donned, I'm sure, in the same pink and green I wore the entirety of my elementary school existence. I announce to my kindergarten classroom that my mother has just given birth to a baby girl named Emily. My class is duly impressed; their parents stopped having children after the perfunctionary two. I am duly gloating; after all, I have the sister for whom I have been waiting for five years. Around lunch time we pulled out our My Little Pony and Transformers lunch boxes and trade food until most of us are satisfied. I am satisfied until an event occurs that can be the only explanation for my having no recollection of this event; embarrassment occurs. Over the loudspeaker it is announced to the entire school, which unfortunately included my kindergarten classroom, that Sean and Lore Ferguson's mother has just given birth to a boy and his name was Andrew David Ferguson. I am told that I crawled under the table. I think they were kind, though, and that in reality I must have cried under the table.
In any case, a brother was born. February 28th 1986. And thus, this date was suddenly filled with chocolate cake and red and the nickname Chub and huge blue eyes and the kindest of all my parents' offspring. We celebrated for 14 years; that's what you do, after all, celebrate the wonder of this wonder, even if he wasn't the wonder I first wanted him to be.
Shortly after that fourteenth celebration, though, a celebration we had no way of knowing would be his last (We would have taken more photos, you see, or bought him more than just model paints, but a helmet we would have made him wear at all times, to insure against the inevitability of April 19, 2000), Drew died of brain trauma. His body lay on the rainy blacktop, to the left of the yellow lines, and he breathed his last. I saw him. For the last time.
And with all the other suddenlies that are taking place in the frenzy of the moment, birthdays are the last thing on our minds. And his, being almost a year away anyway, is certainly the last thing on our minds.
For five years February 28th hurts. Because people forget. Because we're not celebrating. Because my family has four birthdays in February, but we only celebrate three. Because he would have been 15; he would have been 16; he would have been 19; no, he wouldn't have been. For five years February 28th tries to pretend it's just another day, but there are nine people to whom it isn't just another day.
But today is different. Today is the sixth year. Today I can celebrate the anniversary of a birth, 20 years, without the would have beens, might have beens, wishing he was. Today I remembered the birth of which I have no recollection but for the memories others have shared. And I remember the responsibility on me to be a sharer of memories and nothing more.
Happy Birth Day Andrew. Nothing more. Except sometimes I wish you could be here to share some of the memories too.