I don’t mean boyfriend-boys. I mean brother-boys.
I am an older sister. Not by much though; only a year and three days separates me from my brother. My mother always threw us the “dual” birthday party. I swear I don’t think I had a solo birthday party until I was in my twenties! But hey, that’s okay, I never minded sharing my friends or my cake with him.
Recently, I was talking to my cousin who also has a younger brother. We got into a whole conversation about what our brothers mean to us and how our relationships have changed over the years. Both of us see our brothers similarly; handsome, successful, capable, smart, hardworking, gentle. Perfect sons, good fathers and even better husbands. The ideal man (yeah, yeah, I know – if there were an ideal man.)
In our dating years, we always hoped to find men like our brothers. We’ve been known to say things like, “If only he was like (insert respective brothers name), I can actually see this going somewhere.”
At a very young age I would translate what my brother said so my mother could understand. Everything from “He wants a cookie, Ma.” to “He doesn’t like those pants. He said they’re itchy.” Often, to this day, I’ll tell him what I think he should do. Not so much in the way that I really think he doesn’t know what to do, it’s that I want, just a little bit, for life to be like when we were little. When he listened to me more. When I could easily bribe him with gum.
He has always been the responsible, practical one. He saved his money; I bought gum and magazines. He bought his own car; I got the family hand me down. He did actual work at our family restaurant; I hung out and flirted with boys.
My brother has had his own company now for over twenty years. He’s prosperous, published and respected in his industry. He has many people who go to him with questions that need answers, blueprints that need reviewing, problems that need to be solved. I conclude many of my conversations with “Well, let me see what Michael thinks," knowing I need to talk to him before moving forward with anything important. He’s very good with straight-up guidance. Don’t expect him to sugarcoat anything though – if you’re making a bad business move or wasting your time, he’ll let you know.
Yet no matter how capable, successful or old our brothers get, we still worry about them. We still watch over them. Still want the best for them. Sometimes, we even think we can speak for them because we know them so well. I don’t think they’re too fond of that part, but we don’t care. We’re older. I probably don’t know my brother as well now as I did when we were kids, but I guess thinking I know what’s best is a habit that I find hard to break.
We’re older now and our lives have taken different paths. He has a wife and three kids, I have Ed (which is a little like having three kids). He has a house with a pool, I have a truck with a clutch that vibrates. He has roots in a community, I’m like a fart in a high wind. He has…okay, I think you get the point.
Recently I had a glimpse of what it would be like to be without him and I didn’t like it one bit. I couldn’t sleep (unfortunately, I was still able to eat) thinking about the possibility of him not being in my life.
I don’t have anything more important in my life than my brother. I think of him every single day. Sometimes I call to tell him useless stuff like, “I just saw a Moose!” or “Guess what me and Eddie just had for lunch?” I like to share these things with him. He’s usually not too interested in the lunch menu, but I can sometimes grab his attention with wildlife (or breast) sightings. Really, I just like to hear his voice. He doesn’t know (but will after reading this), that whenever he leaves me a voicemail, I save it so I can listen to it at a later date.
So even though I am on the road and don’t see him as often as I’d like, I have a picture of him (and my nephews) which hangs prominently within my view so I can see it every day. And whenever I hear something funny or have a memory, I store it in my pea brain to mention to him next time we talk.
Today he turns forty. Wow. My little brother is the big four-oh. And you know what that means, right? Acckkk! That means I’m a year and three days older than that. Shit. Shit. Shit. See?? This is where that being-an-older-sister-thing is not so fun anymore.
But even though he’s forty, I still see his racing car sheets and Mr. Chickpea puppet; the cheesy mustache he tried to grow in high school and his skinny chicken legs; and his shiny black hair on the top of his head whenever I was watching his back.
And just like in the picture at the beginning of this post, I will always look at him with love and admiration in my eyes.
...and a wry smile on my lips knowing that not only did I translate his gobbledygook to get him a cookie, but I clearly influenced his hip fashion sense.