Only My Bro

My brother, Cheo, and I used to have a little ritual when we’d call each other on the phone. When the caller ID popped up with his name, I’d answer, Hawaiian-style, “Eh, braddah braddah.” It’s the pidgin English pronunciation of “brother.”

Now, I have no brother to call me “braddah” and be actually correct. I have my sister, whom I love dearly, and she has her own secret greeting/nickname for me. (It’ll stay a secret here for today.) I still have many “brothers” in Christ and “bros” in general, but out of those that call me or whom I call “bro,” “bruh,” “brother,” “brew” (South African), “bra” (Bostonian), “brah” (Hawaiian) and the like, it was really only Cheo that would say “braddah braddah” the doubling of the noun carrying the hidden meaning of being brother-brothers.

Ironically, I hadn’t spoken to Cheo on the phone in months. Before he passed, most of our conversation was via text or Twitter. Usually a quip or snide remark on each other’s posts or some witty banter. Just something to acknowledge the other’s writing and let each other know that we were there, still in touch. That’s something I’ll always miss. Cheo had a unique sense of humor that I truly enjoyed.

Even when he lay dying in ICU and Mom patched me in via FaceTime, I greeted Cheo with an upbeat but very concerned “Eh, braddah braddah.” I pleaded with him to awaken out of the coma. I said he had to wake up so Mom and the rest of us would know he was going to be ok. It was heart-wrenching to see him lying there plugged into all those machines. Watching each beep and blip was dizzying — that moment-to-moment uncertainty when a patient is in critical condition. I could barely stand to see it. But I was glad I made myself do it. I was glad to at least have a chance to see Cheo and give him (what I didn’t know at the time) one last greeting. That phrase that we had come up with on our own — actually not until we were both adults. That salute equivalent to a secret handshake that only he and I shared. That phrase of brotherly love that I hope and expect to hear when I see him again on the other side…

“Eh, braddah braddah!”

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