32 Years to Write: My Best Man Speech to My Twin

(Originally published on Medium, September 13, 2015)

In the moment on wedding day. Savannah, Georgia. May 23, 2015.

One mission of this blog is to share my experiences and interactions in the hope of inspiring the community around me to be great. For those readers with familial relations that oscillate between heartwarming and downright irritating (most of you, I would imagine), I believe you’ll find the journey that my brother and I have been on to be one that is relatable: jocular, momentarily woeful, yet wildly encouraging.

In this speech I talk about how two brothers have shared the spectacular journey of similarity and contrast, but have found a way to come together in the end thanks to a remarkable new addition to the family.

It’s an exceptional story. Enjoy.

(Both the full transcript and video are below)

With twin brother as we prep for the big day.

First, I want to thank you all for coming to celebrate this wonderful union today.

This wedding is a super special occasion, and it’s made special by the joining of the Erwin and Feasel families and their many friends (I think 200 of us total, right Meg? Crazy). So thanks to all who traveled from near and far to mark this momentous day.

And on top of that, what a day, right? Just absolutely stunning out, and such a gorgeous setup. Really looking forward to the rest of the evening…and getting through this little speech.

Goofing around with the two brothers in Hudson, New York. Me with twin (top, I’m on right) and with little bro (bottom, again on right). December 2014.

Alright, this is a moment I knew would always come…

Me getting up in front of friends and family at my twin’s wedding, offering up stories of our shared childhood, gently poking Jon about his many oddities, and recounting how I’ve come to know his lifelong companion, Megan.

As I prepped my words for the night, I realized that I speak from a most unique vantage point. Jon’s history is, in a way, an alternative history of my life. How profound a proposition.

Shortly after the college years. At a friend’s apartment in New York City.

On top of that, I get a captive crowd intimate with all that is Jon Erwin…and also get my brother’s attention on one of the most special days of his life.

I’m also a lucky man today.

I’m going to use this special opportunity to speak to all of you, but also to speak from my heart to you Jon, and your beautiful companion, Megan.

But don’t fret, I have humorous stories riddled throughout 😉

So as I was saying, this is a moment I knew would always come…but I always thought this moment would come for me 1st, and Jon 2nd.

And that’s because I’m the first born, by 10 minutes. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s nearly 72 in twin years, and equates to massively advanced intellect, physical stature, and professional potential. But while I won the footrace out of the womb back in 1982, I lost on another front.

I was supposed to be at least 6’5”, but Jon sucked out half the nutrients in the womb, thereby stunting my growth potential. But all good Jon, I don’t hold it against you.

And here’s another fun fact many of you learned last night: Jon was a complete surprise. As in, my parents had NO IDEA they were having twins until after I popped out. It was the 80’s after all, so there were no iPhone apps or wearable technologies. All my parents could rely on was a trained ultrasound technician.

The early years. With Nonna. Summer 1986.

Fortunately my grandmother, Nonna, had come down from CT to help my mom cope. The story goes that when Nonna left after two weeks, my mother walked her out while in tears. I always assume those were tears of joy, although I think my mom tells another version of the story.

Growing up, Jon and I were attached at the hip. We did EVERYTHING together.

I mean, our cribs were even attached. One of my earliest memories is how I used to climb into Jon’s crib so we could have late night hang seshes. I’d bring all my stuffed toys over, intersperse them with Jon’s collection for a fancy display, and then just make noises at each other. To the untrained ear it was straight gibberish, but to us, we were having discourse at a level well beyond our 18 months.

Showcasing our early personalities. In our kitchen for lunch time. I’m on right. Rumson, New Jersey. Summer 1983.

Of course, after about 30 minutes, one of us would throw a temper tantrum (usually me), and I’d throw all of my toys out of the crib and start wailing. Jon was a bit more even keel, and would simply go back to playing, though not without offering up a look of disappointment in my direction.

After our toddler and grade school years, we broke the seal on the 90’s and found ourselves in the next stage of adolescence.

Twin brother and the bride as a captive audience.

It was a period when sports and girls were our primary distractions. Jon and I continued in perfect unison.

On any given weekend, you could find us in a singles tennis match at Victory Park, practicing our pitcher / catcher routine at Piping Rock, or sharing a wave at Sands beach club.

Even our first date was a coordinated adventure: an early morning breakfast at the Rumson Trattoria with our 6th grade beaus. There was no Uber, so we walked, about a mile from our house. While en route, we strategized our lines, and I quote:

“Alright Chris, Kristine really likes ballet, so you should definitely ask her about that.”

“Do we hold hands at any point? How does that go down?”

“Let’s make sure to pay at the end. It’s the gentlemanly thing to do. And we are gentlemen.”

We were two brave 12 yr old men, embarking on a journey of awkward conversation and shared pork roll, egg and cheeses.

Our first date was like every other happening between the ripe ages of 10–14: exciting, adventurous, and ridden with angst…

Unique to Jon and I, though, is that we didn’t have to go it alone. Whatever life threw our way, we did it together. Jon and I took our formative years head on as a unified front.

It was spectacular.

In high school, our individual paths started to take form.

8th grade soccer team. Undefeated, all-county champs. Fall 1996.

We started out freshman year rigorously focused on academics and sports, each equipped with the natural awkwardness of a newbie 9th grader. We both partook in soccer, track and tennis, but that didn’t last long. Jon soon found his stride in running.

In running, Jon excelled beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In fact, he went on to become captain of the high school cross country team, eventually leading his cadre of runners to a state championship.

Jon putting it all out there at a high school track meet. Senior year, fall 2000.

Jon’s running revolution went beyond dominance in the sport alone. Jon started weight training (like all good Jersey boys), became a highly sought after target for the RFH ladies, and capped his senior year with the title of prom king.

But these are just optics of Jon’s running success, and don’t describe the sport’s greatest impact on my brother.

In running, Jon found something he yearned for all his youth…his identity.

A struggle for identity is common amongst twins, especially in their early years. The beauty of running, was that it provided Jon solitude. A solitude that offered Jon intimacy with his purest self, and a world that was his own. His own challenges, his own barriers to break down, his own successes.

Running was Jon’s, and not mine.

As Jon increasingly engaged with the sport, I observed my brother not only finding inner peace with a truer self, but celebrating it.

This is where we started to diverge…

With the counterpart, just after the ceremony.

I excelled in team sports, and was NOT on the radar of any high school girls. We had different peer groups and pastimes, and as a result spent less and less time together.

It was a natural divergence. Jon had found a unique path for himself. It was bold, impressive, and I looked up to him.

It’s not easy for a first-born twin to look up to his counterpart, but that is the truth. I admired his conviction, his athletic prowess, and his popularity. To be honest, I was even jealous…and this is the first time I’m admitting it to him or anyone, for that matter.

Funny thing, I don’t think he realized what he had at the time. And probably still does not. But I sure did. And still do.

Hat tip to you, Jon Erwin.

But high school was just a precursor to Jon’s real formative years, which would be those with the military and with Megan.

Jon at FOB Hadrian, Uruzgan Province during his 3rd deployment in Afghanistan. June 2013.

I can’t provide as many intimate details about Jon’s military career that other groomsmen can. But, I can attest to Jon’s personal transformation.

The military is Jon’s calling. It is what shaped him into a standout from the pack, and a leader among peers. It is where he found lifelong friendships, and where the loneliness of the runner was overwhelmed by solidarity and pride amongst his men.

Jon (far left) with his military brethren. FOB Hadrian. June 2013.

It is also where endless acronyms about logistical operations and cross-fit workouts are not only welcome, but encouraged. And I quote,

“Jon, I hope your WOD will always be near your FOB when you are deployed. Just stay clear of the LZ and ensure your FSO is informed. And never forget to keep clean BDUs nearby.”

Anyway, the military is where Jon found a path to happiness and an even truer self. It is rare to see people today speak with such pride about their profession, their colleagues and their future. No matter how high-risk Jon’s deployments are, I find myself at peace knowing Jon is where he is meant to be. Of course, this notion is still a work in progress for my mother…

But the most exemplary thing about the military? It is how Jon met Megan.

You know someone’s special when you decide to take them out the night before a 9 month deployment, as my brother did with Megan before his Afghanistan tour.

While odd context for a first date, my brother has always gone aggressively after what he wants. And he knew he had to hook Megan early.

Fast forward to the months leading up to St. Paddy’s Day 2011.

Jon and Meg on their way to the Hilton Head Wine Festival. March 2012.

Jon had come back from his deployment, and was courting Megan. Jon spoke of her in ways I had never heard him talk about any woman before. A blonde, blue-eyed beaute from Ohio. Endearing. Self-less. Intimidatingly ambitious. Loving. Jon Erwin tolerant. I mean, truly exceptional.

But on top of all that?! Meg was also a fitness instructor who gave Jon a run for his money in the gym.

Alright, hold up…

The thing is, Jon is half human, half T-1000. This didn’t compute. I had to meet this midwestern lass who could churn out more burpees than my cybernetic twin brother. And so I promptly booked a flight to Savannah for St. Paddy’s weekend.

With twin brother and Meg (I’m on right). St. Paddy’s Day 2011.

I don’t remember all the details of that trip, probably because I over indulged, but what stood out was simply watching Jon and Meg together. They were so in synch: joint early morning workouts, collaborative in the kitchen, synchronized logistical planning, tolerant of my idiosyncrasies (and there are many, I admit it)…as military parlance would say, they were a high-speed Joint Operations task force. As I would describe, they were absolutely smitten with each other.

From that point on, Jon and Meg continued to grow towards one another:

Outings to the Hilton Head Wine Festival, visits to our family’s house in Rumson, Italian getaways to Cinque Terra. Jon and Meg had developed the companionship couples dream about.

After a nine month deployment in Afghanistan, Jon and Meg embrace at the welcome home ceremony at Fort Stewart, Georgia. July 2013.

Throughout this period, there was also a fundamental change in my relationship with Jon. Our paths started to converge again. We became more in synch, more excited to see each other, more tolerant of our differences. We spent more time on the phone, laughed together more…overall, we became much closer friends.

The thing is, Megan has such a noble heart, and embraces everyone around her with such warmth. I know from experience, as upon first meeting me, when it was only the initial throes of her and Jon’s relationship, she extended herself to me with such love and sincerity. There was no agenda. It was just who she is. And who Meg is has inspired me and Jon to rekindle a deeper bond from times past.

Through Megan, I not only gain an amazing addition to the family, but also rebuild the foundation for my most long lasting and treasured friendship — that with my twin brother.

Thank you Megan, from the bottom of my heart.

The grad school years. Chicago, Spring 2012.

To wrap this up, I want to go back to that weekend in Savannah.

That weekend, there is one moment I’ll never forget, when I knew Jon and Meg were destined for lifelong companionship. It was after a long day of imbibing on River Street, and a group of us were stumbling back to Jon’s apt. I was lucky enough to be in the back of the pack, just far enough behind Jon and Meg to go unnoticed, but close enough to eavesdrop on their verbal exchange.

A late night saunter home — a telling of times to come. St. Paddy’s Day 2011.

They were leaning on one another, arm in arm, in what I would describe as a constant fall forward. From this interlocked human pretzel emerged little noises: little giggles, sweet nothings, and shuffled footsteps. It was a pair in perfect harmony, embarking on a journey much greater than just a late night saunter home.

It was a journey that brought them to their wedding today, forming a union in front of all of us…their family and closest friends.

After their first kiss as husband and wife, I again watched from just behind as they walked back down the aisle, arm in arm, both aglow. I know this sight very well now. Jon and Meg are once again embarking on another amazing journey. And just like that day in Savannah, my intuition kicked in. I am resolute that this couple is meant to be together for a lifetime and beyond.

But that’s not all I’m resolute on.

Jon and Meg are an unshakable collective. As individuals, they have and will continue to fundamentally impact those that pass through their daily dealings. As a pair, they are purposefully redirecting the lives of each other, their families, friends, communities and dare I say, the world, to be better.

Today, I not only celebrate a happy couple. I also celebrate a union that has changed my life for the better. And looking throughout this room, I know many share this sentiment.

Husband and wife in full stride. One for the books.

So I started this speech saying that I am also a lucky man today. I want to close this speech saying that we are all, in fact, lucky today. We are lucky that this wondrous pair is solidifying their union, a brave first step to the rest of their life together, and a signal to us that their positive contributions will flourish for decades to come.

How beautiful is that?

I love you twin brother. And I love you Megan.

Cheers to the happy couple.

Embracing with twin brother after the speech.

Full Video

Video from the wedding reception on May 23, 2015. Savannah, Georgia.

Additional Photos from the Big Day

Celebrating at the reception with twin (right) and little bro (middle).
Embracing with the bride after the speech.
Jon and Meg enjoying their first few moments as husband and wife.
Rehearsing my lines just moments before taking the stage.
Saber arch to salute the newly-married couple. A military tradition.

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