July 4th turned into an incredibly productive 4 day weekend for us, but before typing about it we have to recognize my brother, Andrew Alan Zabel. Without him I never would have considered architecture as a career.
Andy (to those growing up, and Drew to those who met him in college) was my older brother by 2 years, the trail blazer for me and my twin sister. Anything that was easy for me was because he already figured it out. The three Zabel kids were a tight group.
Andy was a Lego mastermind, a pyrotechnic maniac, and brilliantly creative. His grin was goofy and disarming, his long hair defiant, and his posture confident. He was thoughtful, generous, and charismatic. He turned dull tedium into fun adventures.
He wanted to be an architect by the time he was 10. In high school, I visited his architecture studio at Ball State University and was hooked by the buzz and tangible creativity. Of course, I followed. We planned to eventually open our own firm.
Some time after college Andy went to the doctor with searing leg pains and was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. He was 25. A few months later he married and spent the honeymoon at the hospital for his first chemo treatment.
We were fortunate to have him for two more years. He was just beginning to fulfill his potential. He was great and capable, then decimated by a freak biological anomaly. He was 27 and passed away on the morning of July 4th with his wife, a close friend of theirs, my sister, Melissa, and me at his side. That was ten years ago. It’s been a whole decade with only memories to fill the space where he was, like mists in place of a mountain.
Grief is the open sore of devastation over the things that will never happen in the void that remains: I can never look to my big brother for advice or approval again. We will never reminisce, share wonder over something, debate public policy, go plinking, or hang out for its own sake. We will never run a firm together. My son will only know his Uncle Andy in stories. I miss him.
But his legacy remains. And a tiny piece of that legacy is that we’re building this house.