My brother, his wife, and two year old son will be visiting with the red queen and I in September. He is 5 years younger than I am and the road to our current relationship is as winding as any, and more complex than most.
I wasn’t much older than 7 or so when a good portion of his supervision fell on me. Not being much older than my charge, I’m sure I made more mistakes than would normally be expected from a primary caregiver. Too much latitude, too many errors in judgment, too late with the right choices. Those phrase pretty much sum up my first and last job as an older brother.
The one thing I could be proud of, aside from the fact that he didn’t end up in prison, is the fact that he became one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever seen. Even when he was 3-4 years old, he could do things on a playing field that many kids three times his age could only dream of doing.
I should say, of course, that I was present when his budding athleticism was manifesting itself because I didn’t teach him much. At the age of two he was already trying to play football with my older brother and I. He’d come to our practices, sit on the sidelines, staring with wide-eyed wonder at the chaos in front of him. He was just sucking it all in, preparing himself mentally for his own opportunitity at some future date no doubt. It was during this time where he believed I was the greatest thing since sliced bread, wanting to spend time with me, following me whereever I went, wanting all the same things I wanted. For my part, I considered him a nuisance and the bane of my existence.
As he grew older, and learned how to be embarrassed by his older brother, and I learned how much time I wasted with him. How often are we the object of adoration and love that is not only unfounded, but given freely and unconditionally? It would be years before the damage I did would be forgiven, but how are we to know that our mistakes revisit us, taunt us, wave at us from the long, unforgiving platform of the past?
Our relationship faltered just as his athletic ability was being noticed by people who notice such things. He was an all-star football player, among the best at his position all through high school, but I couldn’t celebrate this with him as he thought I was a complete asshole… I can’t fault him that belief since it is based on fact. Most the reasons for his belief I was wholly responsible for and for that I am still sorry.
Over the last ten years, my relationship with my brother has come full circle. At some point he realized that I had value, not only as an older brother, but as a human being. For my part, I realized that he was the only little brother I have and, as such, among the most valuable pieces of my life. I have come to love my brother not only because he is a part of my experiences, but because he has turned into a fine human being, one that I am proud to call my brother.