Today is my brother’s birthday. A few days from now 46 years ago, I had no idea what an important part that little guy my mom and dad brought home from the hospital would hold in my heart over the intervening years.
There’s 6 1/2 years between us, so when we were growing up it was hard (for me, anyway) for us to be close. He wanted to do everything I did and go everywhere I went. I viewed him as a pest, as most older brothers do with younger siblings, I suppose; especially when the age difference is that great. My mom sat me down once and tried to explain to me that he idolized me, but in my teenage arrogance I still viewed him as a pest. However, I tried a little harder after that to include him in things.
Of course, even though he might be an aggravation to me, no one else could mess with him. I remember once we had traveled down to Key Largo, Florida for the weekend. My parents had a trailer they kept down there and on this particular trip there were 2 new kids in the park, visiting their grandparents. The 3 of us were around 10 or 11, so my brother was 4 or 5. We were hanging around, exploring and doing the kinds of things 10 and 11 year olds do and my brother was tagging along (because mom made me take him, lol). Anyway, after a while these 2 kids got tired of him following us around and started saying mean things to and about my brother. At first I just laughed along with them, but when I saw his face contort in sorrow and that he was about to cry, I found myself getting angry. Angry at the other 2 kids, yes, but mostly angry at myself. I told the 2 of them to get lost; nobody was going to talk to or treat my little brother like that. They saw how angry I was (and it helped that I was always a tall kid for my age) and took off. I put my arm around my little brother’s shoulder, told him it was ok and I was sorry for laughing at him, and we walked off to play and explore on our own.
He returned the favor when I fell apart after our dad’s major stroke 18 years ago and no else knew how to react to my meltdown. That was such a rough time for me (as it was for everyone, I’m sure) that even now, the visceral feelings I felt then I’m feeling now and tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this. But my brother gave me some of his strength to help me get through it. For that, and so much more, I have always been grateful that he has been in my life.
Of course, as is the case with Cindy in my life, he probably owes everything to his wonderful wife Pia. We’d be lesser men than we are if it weren’t for our fantastic wives, of that I’m sure.
Happy Birthday, Mark. You’ve always signed your cards, letters and e-mails to me as “The Bestest Brother”, and indeed, to me, you truly are.
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