I create context. I also write blog posts:

The Auspicious and Remarkable Life of Jason Shelly (…thus far)

Posted: October 1st, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

This weekend, I was honored to be the best man at my brother’s wedding. Part of the job was planning the bachelor party, part was helping set up for the ceremony, and part was delivering a toast at the reception. Here’s how it was written (video coming if I can get it!):


Let’s talk for a moment about the auspicious and remarkable life of Jason Shelly.

I don’t remember much about the day Jason was born, but I’m sure it was a momentous occasion. It was a momentous occasion, I know, because in addition to the world having a new, insatiably curious kid breathing its air, the world had a new set of parents looking after an air-breathing kid of their own for the first time. It was a momentous occasion because those two parents probably didn’t know what to expect or what was to come. But there were people around them who could help, people around them who knew that they’d be good parents. People who were proud of them.

And my parents had a lot to be proud of. Jason was a smart kid, precocious from a young age. He understood Rochester and its contributions to the world, which is why, as a toddler, when the car drove past Kodak Park, he marveled at the giant smokestacks and the industry of it all.

Turns out, though, he didn’t know anything about film. He thought Kodak made clouds.

He knew that he was forward-thinking, and his behavior foreshadowed his involvement in politics. When he was about three, Mom took him to Burger King for lunch and they gave him a paper crown. “How did she know I was a king?” he asked.

He was judicious. There was a time in high school when Jason refereed hockey games. There was a time specifically when he refereed one of my hockey games. I played goalie and, in this one particular time, I knocked a player from the other team to the ice because I felt he had skated too close to me. I looked up at the closest referee and it happened to be Jason. A big moment in our relationship as he caught my glance: would he call a penalty on me for my completely unnecessary reaction, or would he be cool and let it slide?

He started to raise his hand to call the penalty. My attention on him and the deafening protest I was about to unleash, I failed to notice the kid on the other team getting back to his feet. I turned back to face him just as he slugged me in the jaw. Again, I looked at Jason. He had put his arm back down and decided he wasn’t going to call any penalties on this one.

After the game, he explained: I was gonna call you for it, he said, but I thought everything kind of evened itself out after he punched you in the face.

It was then that I knew, yeah, he’s gonna make a fine lawyer.

He was fun to be around.

When I was in eighth grade, I wanted to start playing an instrument. I told my parents and we spoke to the middle school band director. I wanted to play something cool. I wanted to play the drums. No, the band director said. I said, “fine, I’ll play something else.”

The next year, Jason chaired possibly the best tuba section Gates Chili High School has ever witnessed. He was a senior, the vocal anchor of the section. On his left, Evan Goodberry, who — as a freshman — already knew everything there was to know about playing the tuba. And then, to his left, me. I can actually think of worse things than sitting next to your brother to start every day of your freshman year. I can think of better things, too, but I can think of worse.

A few years later, Jason had graduated, Evan got bored, and and I was the only pillar of the section remaining. The band director pulled me aside. They needed a vocal senior to anchor. “That could be you,” he said. “ You could be very good, like Evan Goodberry.” “Or?” I asked. “Or, you could be like Jason.” I took the latter.

And then he went to college.

College! It’s like Christmas in August for younger siblings.

I wore the t-shirts he left behind in his closet, I read the books he left on his shelf. And then I took something I know he had meant to take to schol. I took these: (At this point, I held up a pair of old headphones, ones I had taken from him. Good ones.). Jason, I want you to have these back. I know you missed them.

Jason is prepared… And, so am I, it turns out. A few weeks ago, we drove to Pittsburgh with some friends to catch a ballgame. On the way there, someone in our car got a phone call… “Does anybody have a bottle opener?” the people who had already gotten there asked.

Dad, I know you had dreams of us following in your footsteps as Eagle Scouts, and if there’s some disappointment that we didn’t, I’m sorry for that. At least Jason gave it a try.

But I’ll have you know, when the situation presented itself, when someone could literally save the day with a bottle opener, BOTH Shelly boys raised their hands and said, “I have one.”

Jason is confident.

My favorite story about Jason isn’t funny or embarrassing, it isn’t about hockey or politics. It took place when he was back home from college on break at some point.

We were leaving a movie theatre where we had seen some spy movie. The only details that matter was that they were badass and they were the good guys. Also, they carried out missions that were incredibly dangerous.

So we’re walking to the car afterward and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of “I could do that.”

I remember my answer. I said, “What, are you crazy? I could do that for about a minute and a half and then I’d be dead. Somebody would shoot me in the face and I would be dead.”

“Nah, you’d get good at it,” he said.

His logic was this: if he wanted to become a secret agent, that’s what he’d become. And he wouldn’t worry that he wasn’t James Bond, he would figure out a way to become good at it. I looked at it and said, “that looks hard. I’d die.” He looked at it and said, “if James Bond can do it, why can’t I?”

Jason has been there for me a lot. In school, when I fought with my friends, when I was angry at mom and dad, in a million other situations. He’s never once told me, “forget about it. It’s too hard.” I don’t think it occurs to him that that could be the case. Somewhere, somehow, he’s found the confidence to do whatever he wants. I admire the hell out of that, but I also learn from it.

Jason, you’re smart. You’re judicious and you wear headphones and you’re confident. You’re prepared. Today, you made the best decision of your life.

Good work, kid.

Tonight, let’s toast Jason and Bethany many many times, in honor of the auspicious and remarkable life they’re beginning together. Starting now…

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