He’s My Brother

It’s not out of the question to say that what occurred on Jan. 3, 1962—had it not happened—would’ve entirely changed the course of my life.

When my brother Brian was born, I immediately went into a funk. I had 100% of my parents’ attention, devotion and love. Then suddenly everyone was cooing and fawning over this little monster that disrupted my paradise. I’d even go as far as to say he was the reason for my idea to strike out on my own.

Maybe our parents acknowledged that and evened things out. Eventually I laughed with (mostly at) my new sibling. Later I learned that because Brian’s birth had been so difficult on our mother, her doctor warned against future pregnancies. I’d always wanted a little sister, someone to mediate between me and Brian. Now that we’ve lost both our parents, he’s my only connection to the past.

You probably couldn’t pick two more distinctly different personalities than ours. Growing up, I was serious, thoughtful and liked my quiet time to read books. He was noisy, rambunctious, inattentive. I was the introvert, he the extrovert. As a kid in school, Brian struggled with dyslexia (When told Mom was making our favorite supper, spaghetti, meatballs and garlic toast, Brian would slur, “Oh boy, Pahsketti!”).

Now that Mom is gone, I’m reminded how much work it must’ve been to feed and care for three men. Literally a baptism of fire, since she was raised an only child in a household with a neurotic Irish mother and philandering, charismatic father. (More on that later. A post all in itself.) Our dad’s philosophy to raising children was “spare the rod, spoil the child”—and we learned to fear our father’s wrath.

One time in Maryland Brian and I were throwing darts in the basement when he suddenly ran over to the dartboard just as I was tossing the dart. It landed squarely on the side of his head. He ran crying to Dad. Case in point: rod definitely left unspared.

Brian and I kept apart as best we could—he spending free time with his friends, me with mine. We were rarely each other’s playmates. After we moved to Minnesota, we often got into knockdown, drag-out fights in neighbors’ homes. And later than that, after college, we once got into a fistfight at a yard party I had at our parents’ house while they were away on vacation somewhere.

I should be embarrassed to admit that, if we weren’t brothers, and he was a stranger on the street, we probably wouldn’t have more than five words to say to one another. Our only shared interests these days are culinary techniques (he’s a marvelous cook; I’m no slouch myself—we had to learn as neither of our parents were very good in the kitchen) and…well, that’s about it. He’s married and raised his own family of three boys; I’ve chosen to remain single. Different worlds.

It was always something of a competition: who was getting more attention, Brian or Mike? Who was more successful? Who got better grades in school? Who fared better in their careers? Family life? Choice of friends? I know after Mom passed, Dad was concerned about us. “He’s the only brother you’ve got.” Well, obviously. But single older brother with job-juggling, family-juggling younger brother … I guess I should’ve extended myself more to Brian and his family, but “should” is a word I’m never comfortable using.

“I’m a simple man,” Brian admitted to me this year when talking about difficulties he’d had raising his boys. I seem to get more complicated every year, thinking of art and film projects, writing, journals. Again, we have little common ground. We are fundamentally different people.

Then this past Thanksgiving, Brian brings to the dessert table two books he’d just finished reading—one, a nearly 800-page epic novel, the other a memoir by a local writer. I was totally taken aback. My dyslexic, inattentive, distracted and somewhat socially rigid brother is now a reader. His wife then tells me he’d read all the Harry Potter books, some of them many times over.

Cooking—and now reading. His children growing up and beginning their own lives. Our changes may end up being not the fork in the road that leads us apart, but the thing that brings us closer together.

If that’s not ironic, I sure as hell don’t know what is.

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~ by completelyinthedark on November 26, 2010.

One Response to “He’s My Brother”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Here’s something old until I get something new edited and up, likely but not promising, by next Friday.

    Like

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