Today is your birthday.
And while I know that you haven’t exactly been looking forward to turning 26, I thought I might try to convince you that it’s not so bad. As you know, I’ve been 26 for a full six months, making me an expert in the field. Look, 26 is an amazing age, because you’ve arrived at that sweet-spot in life: old enough to be taken seriously, not too old that you’re missing out on following your dreams (that age may never come for you).
More importantly, another year of life is another one of the many reasons I sure am glad you’re alive.
And now, enough chit-chat.
1. You Let Me Make You Laugh
If you didn’t know by now, this ranks as one of the most important features of my relationship with you. I could go the rest of my life without pizza, without sex (funny how those share equal weight), but the days I let pass without at least an attempt to make you laugh are wasted, and how I wish I could have them back. If you deserve nothing else in life, it’s at least to have something to laugh about. I’m relieved to be that something more than once in a week. High-brow, low-brow, unibrow – whatever.
I’ll admit, not all of my wisecracks, my one-liners and puns, are winners. And to be quite honest, should the time come when I have to quiet some crying child of ours, I could just as soon tell a joke as provide a pacifier, for silence would be sure to follow in either case. But unlike our games of HORSE, in which you remain the reigning champ, I actually do get points for trying to make you laugh (I’ll take a sympathetic smile any day).
2. You Forgive
You know to what I am referring, and I’m still in your eternal debt.
3. The Way You Look at the Basket
There’s this look you get just before you drive or pull up to shoot. It’s difficult to explain without conjuring images of a German Shephard about to pounce on unsuspecting prey, or even that ominous red dot that tells a sniper’s target it only has a few seconds to live. For that brief moment, everything else gets shut out, and you emote a relaxed yet determined confidence that that ball is going to find its mark. I don’t mean to make you self-conscious about it, but it’s the same every time. You’ve never seen yourself play, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
4. You Don’t Tolerate My Crap
I can tell you how infuriating I am sometimes, though I think you already have a good idea. And don’t take this the wrong way, but if I could find the person who first said, “you will always be your toughest critic,” I would probably ask him if he was married. You get the best of me, and you’re more patient than you give yourself credit for (reference the countless and unfruitful hours you spent trying to teach me how not to play volleyball like a basketball player).
We both know that sometimes I shut down against something difficult. I begin to rationalize that there’s no value in pushing through, that I’m just as well if not better for swimming downstream. Somehow, you convince me to go back into the fire and stay there until I have no choice but to become fireproof. The cliché is that “all the good ones are either gay or married.” And while I can’t speak for one group, I can attest that the good ones are good because they’re married.
5. Your Inability to Generate Your Own Body Heat
This fact is inexplicably and undeniably true. I don’t know if it’s to do with poor circulation, or that fact that I generate far too much body heat and somehow the forces that be decided that our relationship would be a textbook case of entropy. In either case, I’m glad I can be there to help balance the two of us out.
6. Sleepless Nights
Believe it or not, I am grateful for those nights you wake me up because you can’t sleep. Some people thinks it’s an injustice they have to sleep alone, but to me that’s the easy part; it’s the being-awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night-alone that’s the injustice. You might think pulling me out of my death-like slumber for any of the following reasons might be a great inconvenience to me:
Because I’m overheating the bed and need to move
Because you’re thirsty/hungry/scared
Because you’re sick and need medicine or a blessing
Because you’re bored, and would like some company
Because you want to play Nertz
Because you need someone to vent to about our upstairs neighbors and their incessant guitar playing/walking/peeing
But it’s not (and I’m kidding about the Nertz).
7. You Are Okay with Me Pursuing My Dreams
Academically speaking, there are two events of which I am extremely proud: the first was when I received full marks for a term paper I wrote on The Great Gatsby when I hadn’t even read the book; and the second was when I officially declared myself an English Major. The first I accomplished on my own; the second would not have been possible without you. I attribute loving and finishing my undergrad and entertaining the possibility of grad school to your efforts that January afternoon in reorganizing my schedule. My English major-ness is as much a part of me as anything. I literally could not have done it without you.
8. You Somehow Think I’m Worth Listening To
You are one of the smartest, most capable people I know. So you should know what an honor it is when you turn to me for counsel. And while I’m not always the purveyor of good advice I’d like to be, the possibility that I’ll be called upon to submit my two cents, or provide an objective viewpoint makes me want to work harder.
p.s., you should cut your hair short. Like reeeeeeeally short.
9. You Hate Haunted Houses as Much as I do
You have no idea the elation I feel when I can tell one of my friends, “Uh, sorry. I don’t think a haunted house would be a good idea. Gabe hates them!” Thanks for that.
10. The Few Places where Our Musical Inclinations Overlap
I actually really enjoy the fact that we have few interests in common, musically-speaking. You know my history with music has been a bumpy one, but it’s kind of refreshing to every now and then hear a song you like that I absolutely can’t stand. For some reason, it makes me feel a little better knowing that you don’t get caught up in the minutiae of chord progression, lyrics, and song quality. You listen to songs because they sound good to you. And occasionally, you’ll stumble upon a song that I absolutely love, but for completely different reasons. I guess I’m just glad knowing that at the end of the day, we’ll always have Black Holes & Revelations, Absolution, Resistance, and The 2nd Law.
I once tried approximating all the miles we’ve walked together. I couldn’t think of even a rough estimate. You and I have literally been walking side-by-side for about five years now. We’ve walked around Provo countless times; got lost, battered, and famished along the Napali Coast; hurried nervously through the hot and hilly streets of San Francisco; meandered barefooted down the quiet beach in Waimanalo; picked through Portland and Seattle for the nearest Nike outlet or Nordstrom; found that amazing crepe place in Waikiki; took the scenic route from Frontierland to Tomorrowland to the pier and back again; ran angrily down the beach in San Diego.
Do I remember all the things we talked about during those walks? You bet I do.
12. You Still Think I Don’t Like Pride and Prejudice or Haven’t Read It More than Once
Your obsession with Pride and Prejudice in print and onscreen makes me wonder whether you also would have made a fine English major. And yet, to this day, you somehow think I know little to nothing about the famed Austen novel. That it was actually intended as a parody, even a comedy; that Mr. Darcy is a caricature of the classic Byronic hero, or that Wickham’s elopement with Lydia actually had deep legal implications. I do appreciate our conversations analyzing the plot and characters, though. You are exceptionally bright; however, I feel you’re still cheating yourself out of the full Austen experience by not reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
13. You’re Still Excited to See Me
I don’t know how you do it. Even after a rough day, one will difficult patients, lazy coworkers, migraines, fatigue, hunger, muscle soreness, and period cramps, you still look forward to seeing me at the end of it. You inevitably put on your best smile when you first see me and help me remember that I really don’t have that much to complain about. You greet me with a hug and several kisses as though it’s been years. In this regard in particular, I really wish I was more like you, and will endeavor to be.
14. I can Still Surprise You
I think we can both agree that when I proposed marriage all those years ago, it was not romantic, but damn were you surprised! Feigning a crippling headache and hiding the ring in the Aspirin bottle was a work of genius . . . until I had to empty the bottle’s entire contents to retrieve the ring. I didn’t think it all through. It’s not easy, surprising you. You can be intolerably cleaver sometimes, and I’ve had to construct increasingly creative ways to surprise you on your birthday, our anniversary, Christmas, etc. I will never forget our anniversary dinner where I had arranged with the restaurant to bring you out that string of pearls with dessert. The look on your face that said, “oh, how nice of the restaurant to give us a little something on our special day . . . wait, WTF, those are pearls! They wouldn’t . . . JORDAN!” I live for that look.
15. You Keep My Head from Getting Too Big
You have this paradoxical ability to simultaneously inspire both confidence and humility in me. I really don’t know how you do it. “You’ve gotten really good at shooting,” you’ll say right before wiping the floor with me in a game of HORSE. “Your legs have gotten so muscular,” you’ll remark as you hold back laughter for how ridiculous I look in those pants that were definitely NOT meant to be skinny cut. I think you have a great talent for gratifying my ego while also helping me to laugh at myself. You’ve no idea what a treasure that is.
16. Your Hatred of Television
When I say “hatred,” I mean deep annoyance. And when I say “television,” I mean mindlessly wasting away hours in front of a screen. You love Friends, Castle, Bones, Property Brothers and will occasionally join me for Bob’s Burgers, but that’s about the extent of your basic cable attractions. Your passion lies in activity. I would be a lot worse off if you allowed me to watch as much television as my inertia constituted.
17. Your Hesitancy to Adopt New Technology/Apps
This is a minor one, but I love how not tied you are to technology (except for that six-month stint with Candy Crush Saga. We’ll just not talk about that). I love that you just don’t care about the latest app or social media trend. Like me, you tend to scoff at the obscene number of hashtags people use in their Instagram posts (that is, once you finally downloaded Instagram). This hesitancy also gives me the opportunity to do some independent research, so when the time comes when you ask me about something, I can give you an informed answer. It just makes sense that our lives are not inundated with ubiquitous technology.
18. You’ve only Taken like 3 Selfies in Your Entire Life
Oh. My. Gosh. I love you for this. I can’t even totally explain why, but I just do.
19. The Strange Relationship You Have with Cats
Cats hate everyone. You hate cats. Cats love you. For some reasons, cats know you hate them, and refuse to flee from you like they do most people. It’s almost as though they’re curious as to why a human like yourself (an inferior life form in their creepy cat eyes) wouldn’t want to spend every waking minute serving them. And so they wait for you to crack. But you never do. It’s not the coolest superpower, I’ll admit. But it could come in handy someday.
20. Your Growing Ability to Enjoy the Journey
Your drive to accomplish your goals is one of your best qualities. But I think you’re starting to realize that life is not just about the number of goals you can accomplish, it’s also about the quality of the time you spend accomplishing them. There was a time when you refused to try anything you weren’t immediately skilled at because it would require you to slow down and train yourself; it opened up the possibility for failure, which your younger self had trouble coping with. But that’s not you anymore. You’ve grown into someone that can handle the bumps in the road, learn from them, and even get better because of them. You haven’t sacrificed your standards, nor should you, but I think you’re mastering the art of smelling roses, and it’s awesome for me to see!
21. Your Friendship with my Mom
Okay. Time out. As all of my siblings will more than willingly tell anyone who wants to hear, my mom was one of my best friends growing up. Still is. She got me to take piano lessons, introduced me to Taekwondo, urged me to try theatre camp, and inspired in me a love of weird foods. She’s a tough woman that I want to be like someday. The fact that you two are friends makes me love you more, because I think that friendship helps you understand who I am and where I come from a little better (besides, I think she likes you a smidgen better anyway).
22. You’re Always Down for HP and LotR
I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say the words, “Ugh, (insert the name of a movie in either the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series) is on? Not watching it.” Never. So thank you, TNT and ABC Family (I refuse to ever call that channel “Freeform,” because it’s stupid), for giving my wife and me an opportunity to binge our favorite movies the old-fashioned way: with countless commercial interruptions. What’s sad is that we both know exactly when those interruptions will take place. Thankfully, they’re long enough for us to take a trip to the bathroom, make a grilled cheese, or order a pizza.
23. Your Idea of “The Perfect Evening”
Speaking of the above-mentioned activities, I really think I’ve nailed what you consider a perfect evening. And I couldn’t ask for anything more. It almost always involves myself, but occasionally, a few friends are also invited. Activities range from playing Nertz, to watching volleyball or one of the few chick-flicks we actually agree on (there’s like six). Chips, queso, and fresca from Cafe Rio play a huge roll. Also sweatpants. Sweatpants sort of sum up the attitude with which we approach the perfect evening. Also cake. Sweatpants and cake.
25. Your Love Affair with Teriyaki Sauce
I love having to ask whether you need a straw or a shotglass for the stuff.
26. And finally, Your Undeniable Gabeness
I had some difficulty defining this quality on my own, so I asked for some help from the experts:
“The ability to say it how it is. No beating around the bush, just genuine answers . . . to be loyal, loving, smart, and truly GOOD down to the core.”- Christie Carpenter Nielsen
“GABEZILLLLAA!! kind, compassionate, a little crazy (but in the best way!).”- Martina Cisneros
“The quality of being Gabe. This includes speaking your mind at any given moment, loving fearlessly, and defending what you love TO THE DEATH.”- Kelsey Hudson
“Asian?? Polynesian!! Green smoothies and chocolate chip cookies. Utterly terrifying while playing Nertz. It doesn’t matter what sport we play, she is always better. Competition exists everywhere and I will always lose :)”- Sir Anthony Merrill
“An OCD, hyper-competitive, yet overwhelmingly compassionate person. A yogi, an athlete, a smarty-pants. A feisty, determined, hard working woman who’s never afraid to tackle a task. A planner, a dreamer, always looking to improve.”- Rachel LeCheminant
“I’m switching this to Gabrul-ness:
- it’s her way of being the one you go to when you need someone to listen to and give reasonable advice
- will eat a tub of ice cream with you while watching never ending movies
- will be the kindest person around . . . unless someone is mean to any of her friends
- has the most patience of anyone I know for putting up with our friends all through high school and beyond
- will be weird and silly because we’re never going to grow out of it
- and for being someone who, for no matter how long we don’t talk, we pick up right where we left off”- Stephanie Ma
“Elder Holland has said ‘the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.’ One way to possess Gabeness is to be fiercely loyal. Loyal to your family, your close friends, your God, your sports teams, your intramural teammates, and your Kobe Zooms just to name a few things. Through that loyalty is expressed a rare kind of love. A love that is real. A love that is evident because you are faithful, dependable, steadfast, and devoted. Your nature and personality is such that you are a joy to be around. If you have what’s known as Gabeness, you are all of these things and more. Plus, you are really, really cool.”- Ryan Lauritzen
- “Needing to win even when there’s no prize, reward, or social glory at stake
- Putting chocolate on her chocolate, then eating that with a side of chocolate
- Having a small circle of close friends, and being fiercely loyal to those chosen few
- Physically gravitating towards any human within a five feet radius . . . this is a slow and almost unnoticeable process until she is literally sharing a couch cushion with the said human
- Flawlessly transforming from Nike V-necks to Banana Republic pencil skirts at the drop of a Dri-FIT hat
- Conducting frequent self-assessments, making her quite possibly the most self-aware person on earth
- Fixating on shiny objects (i.e. Jordan Grimmer, yoga, Banana Republic pencil skirts, purple hair, Nike ERRTHANG, NERTZ)
- Being very methodical and careful about life decisions, but when her mind is made up – BOY, IS IT MADE UP!
- Not being afraid to cry it out on her friend’s apartment floor only to wake up in the morning to laugh it out while eating said friend’s cereal 😉
- Silently being the smartest person in the room, but others have to draw this conclusion themselves because Gabe would never tell you how smart she is
- Having raw, natural talent for literally everything physically active she has ever endeavored to try
- FEELING. ALL. THE. FEELS.”- Jenna Cason Shumway
“Structured. Haha!”- Josh Blade
“Smiley, thoughtful, creative, artistic, determined, intelligent, bubbly, loving, snuggly, authentic, also hilarious, she really understands my sense of humor which is pretty quirky! Also just such a great friend, even though we do not talk as frequently as we used to, it is so easy to pick up wherever we left off and I would say that is because she is so genuine, kind, and makes everyone around her feel comfortable. This is making me miss her!!!”- Lauren Banks
“To me the essence of Gabeness is a weaving of two things: delicate beauty coupled with silent, resilient strength; with her beauty comes poise, grace, charm, and with her strength comes determination and composure. Gabeness is also definitely down to earth humor and humble intellect. Sprinkle a pinch of compassion on top of a razor sharp competitive edge, and you’ve got yourself some Gabeness!”- Brenna Schaaf
So, there you have it. My 26 reasons why I (along with all your friends and family) could not possibly imagine a world without you. Enjoy this day, Gabe.