My birthday is in less than two weeks. Usually, we’re gearing up for the start of the school year for our kids, going back-to-school shopping, getting hair cuts and the annual physical, buying school supplies…And this year we’re doing none of that.

Instead, I’m watching playoff hockey.

It’s hotter than it’s ever been where I live, and our A/C is down. I sleep the best out of all of my family members because I grew up in hot and humid weather in the summers with no A/C, and the feeling of being on top of the covers with only the fan on me is, while not ideal, familiar and lets me fall asleep while the rest of the house suffers.

Usually in August we’re wrapping up the summer swim season with the “big meet” and other closing activities because while the kids aren’t quite ready to go to school yet, the college kids who are the lifeguards and coaches are about to leave for their respective campuses. This year there is no meet, and a lot of kids aren’t heading back anywhere for the fall.

In August, we are usually getting bombarded with commercials for the new shows that are starting in the fall, with scenes from the one and only episode yet shot on endless repeat on TV and on social media. We’d all still be talking about the summer blockbusters in the theater. I was supposed to be taking my son to his first-ever concert this August.

I should be registering my kids for swimming and ballet and any number of other activities through the school but we’re all waiting to see what the state says about activities and what we can and can’t do, so we wait and hope that we can keep doing some of the things we love while still being safe.

Usually in August we’d have seen at least one of our extended families by now, but we can’t leave the country because my son’s passport expired during the pandemic and no passports are being made which is fine because I wouldn’t want some random government employee taking all the passports and passport applications home with them. But also, we’re not welcome in Canada, or really anywhere right now.

I miss seeing my brother. I hear my son cackle with laughter and I remember that one of my favorite things in the world is hearing my brother laugh. It takes over his whole body and he shakes with laughter, literally falling over with it. The first memory of that laugh is one time when we were really young and watching reruns of The Muppet Show. Bert and Ernie made a cameo, and Ernie plucked Bert’s nose from his face, and when Bert started talking in an even more nasal and muffled voice, we both lost it. My eyes were closed, but I can remember hearing him laugh, feeling him laugh as we rolled around on the ground next to each other.

The second memory is when we went as a family to see either Three Men and a Baby or Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Between our age difference, swimming schedule, and my dad’s shift work, we didn’t often get to go to see movies with all four of us together. There was a preview for Who Framed Roger Rabbit which was the opening cartoon short with Roger and Baby Herman. We both lost of collective minds, and this was the first time I remember having trouble breathing I was laughing so hard. We both were. It was the first movie I really remember us begging out parents to take us to see as soon as it came out.

There were other times, particularly when we were punch-drunk tired from a long weekend at a swim meet, in the back of the bus on the way home where everything would dissolve us into uncontrollable giggles. But you get older and your friend-groups are different and even at swim team, you’re not as close.

My brother introduced me to South Park. He was the one who told me I needed to tune in at midnight on one of the Canadian broadcast stations to catch four foul-mouthed, poorly-drawn kids, with one always dying at the end of the episode. I was already away at university, but that just meant it was perfect for me to catch. I loved it. So when I won free passes from the local radio station to catch the premiere of the movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, I knew immediately that I was taking my brother along with me.

He had recently had his wisdom teeth removed, so still a little under-the-weather, but the raucous crowd in the theater buoyed his spirits. We were like little kids again, watching Ernie take Bert’s nose off or the utter surprise and delight from those first frames of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We both laughed until we were in tears, unable to catch our breaths, and left the theater holding our sides we had laughed so hard.

We don’t see each other very often, a pattern that started when I left for college, and then he left for the British Virgin Islands, and then I left for Alberta, and then left the country. We spent so much time together growing up because of swimming but also distant because of the three grade-levels of difference between us. A lot of our shared memories, outside of swimming, are negative, and so I hold on to these ones like the treasures they are.

My kids adore their uncle, and they can confound him and make him laugh all at once. Usually by August they’ve been able to reconnect with their uncle during a visit. Usually in August we’ve said some goodbyes but with an eye towards reunions once school and swimming and ballet start up again in the fall. This August, we have none of those things, but we have hockey playoffs and that’s weird but also something which is better than nothing.

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