You get to finish up the run of family to whom I’m writing, big brother. Aren’t you proud?
I often tell people that we’re two only children who happen to have the same parents, but that only ever ends up being a rhetorical device to tell them our shared story, which isn’t one of much shared experience outside the home. You’re nearly six years older than me, having been born in Wichita a little less than halfway through Dad’s time as a Titan II missile officer. Your young childhood was spent in Knoxville, where I was born just as we prepared to leave. My young childhood was split between Texas and Ohio.
School: You started kindergarten in Tennessee, presuming that my math is right. You did most of elementary school in Texas, finished it in Ohio, and then did junior high and high school there in Beavercreek, graduating just before we moved. Conversely, I started school in Ohio, finishing sixth grade there before doing all of my secondary education in Mississippi. There’s only one overlap in our school days, and that it’s that we both did fifth and sixth grades in Ohio. The difference is that we were redistricted from Valley into Main after you finished sixth grade and I finished kindergarten, so we never had any of the same teachers growing up. I never had any comparisons to you, and the same held true on your end, too. As different as we are, I think that’s for the best. Heck, it’s probably best for everyone.
We consistently came through life at different external speeds, but we did share our home life. You taught me to read, mostly (I guess) as a way to take your annoying 30-month-old brother out of your face and stick him back in his room. You have to admit, though, that teaching me to read under the radar was a sneaky trick. I can picture us as flashcard-wielding demons, housed in your room with knowledge ours for the taking. Little did Mom know that we were on the attack when I read the paper and asked what “raped” meant. I got revenge for Mom, though, asking you what “fuck” meant when we rode together once on the school bus. I remember you both stammering to figure out what to tell me and mentally vowing to Never Let Little Brother Near Me on the Bus Again.
All of this was a symptom of I Want to Be Like My Big Brother-itis, a common inflammation amongst younger siblings. This even extended to my first post-high school job, one you got me working for the radio company that you still flip discs for on the side for shingles and some money. I worked as a cub radio reporter, doing … well, not doing a whole hell of a lot seeing as I had zero contacts. I remember once going to a diner purely to figure out what was going on that people cared about. I also remember a good piece I did about some school issue up in Shady Grove, one you told me that Larry liked, and that you’d heard it too and thought that it was pretty good. That was the highlight of that summer, which I remember for us fighting a lot about how the apartment should be (you should have always won; it was your place) and for both Hurricane Danny and the Versace murder. I remember thinking that you and I were going to be stuck at the Radio Ranch for a long weekend as South Mississippi flooded like crazy.
At some point, I was fully confident enough to forge my own path in things, which explains my politics if nothing else. We both live our lives based on the values that our parents and grandparents taught us, even if that looks differently in each of us given the differences we have in temperament. [It must be nice not getting mad easily.] We may have both led largely different lives at every stage of them, but we are still undeniably brothers. I was proud to be there for you on your wedding day and disheartened to be there when Cindy passed away. Being the little brother means that I don’t have all of the protective brotherly instincts, but I remember wanting to take all of that sorrow away from you if I could.
We don’t talk as much as we should, and I don’t visit as much as I should. You’re still my brother, though. You’re the only one I got, and whoever thinks they can change that has another think coming.