“Ah, no worries,” he wrote in his text, “I’ll take care of it, it’s all good.” It was the perfect response, what I needed to hear.
Because in this instance, like most instances, I was worrying about something which was definitely not worth my worry. It is what I do, and my brother knows this.
We are born from the same parents, come from the same gene pool, and grew up in the same house yet, my brother and I are very different people. I am grateful.
My brother Kent is three years older than me. In my earliest memory, I see him, crooked grin upon his face, bangs in need of a trim. He has on a striped t-shirt, Toughskins jeans and Keds tennis shoes. He is whispering something in my ear, trying to make me laugh, and he is succeeding. We’re in a restaurant, eating fried chicken, and we’re about to get thumped on the head from our father, his quick and quiet way to discipline us when we acted up. It is one scene, one memory in my bank, but it represents the essence of our entire childhood.
My brother always added a certain element of fun to our household. He was a tease, often cutting up and making everyone laugh. Growing up, we couldn’t have been more opposite. He was outgoing, popular, played in and excelled at sports. He was fun to be around (still is) and thus people gravitated toward him. I on the other hand, was quiet and shy and while I had friends, it took me a long time to grow into myself. I often stood in the shadows of his gregarious personality.
So while I spent my time doing exactly what I was supposed to, Kent was doing exactly what he wanted to do. While I did homework and earned Girl Scout badges and kept my room clean, Kent took life for all it had to offer. He quit the Boy Scouts and got a paper route. He saved up enough money to buy a mini-bike (which he bought without consulting with my parents).
At age eleven, he cooked Thanksgiving dinner, even making Baked Alaska for dessert. When he was a teen, he brought home a puppy, giving my parents some lame story about how he’d rescued him from being used in a research study for a drug company. Nobody believed the story, but we ended up keeping Max; he was the best dog we ever had.
The thing about my brother is this: he’s always walked to the beat of his own (somewhat rebellious) drum. Growing up, if he was having fun, then our parents’ rules and curfew limits became optional. If he didn’t like his teachers, he simply wouldn’t do the homework. If you were a bully picking on an innocent kid, well then he just might have beaten you up. Half the time my parents didn’t know whether to be proud or appalled by my brother’s behavior. In the end, I believe they’ve always respected him for being true to his beliefs, no matter the consequences.
As kids we had plenty of fun, but we weren’t exactly close. In fact, I’d say like most siblings, we spent the majority of our time fighting. But no matter, I always knew if I ever got into a real jam, my brother would be there for me. And now, some forty-years later, he still is.
In our adult years we’ve had many a memorable time together. We’ve had family camp outs where he makes up campfire stories to scare our kids, we’ve gone on vacations to the beach each year (where he makes us all write down our favorite memories and then buries these notes in a jar for us to dig up the next year) and we also tailgate together before the Colts games (breakfast burritos, homemade soup, brats-the food is always fabulous!).
My brother is funny, can make anyone laugh. My kids affectionately refer to him as Crazy Uncle Kent.
But lately our time together and conversations have been more serious. It’s what happens when you lose a parent. There are decisions to be made, details to contend with, financial plans to be considered. And so in this we are a team; we bounce things off on one another, talk through issues and determine next steps. We also talk through our grief. It is a new stage in our relationship.
I love that I have my brother to walk with me through these trials. But most of all, I just love my brother for who he is; a funny, caring person who doesn’t take himself or his life too seriously.
A while back he sent me a text, he was offended that I was unable to attend a cookout he hosted. I kept explaining why we couldn’t be there. Turns out he was just teasing, trying to get a rise out of me (which he did). The other day when I called, he answered the phone by saying, “Taco Tim’s, how can I help you?” He repeatedly acts as if he cannot remember my youngest daughter’s name, calls her Karen. Last week after reading my blog, he asked if I was ever going to write about him. He’s asked this last question for about a year now.
Well brother: Yes, I am and here it is. Thanks for always being there, teaching me to lighten up and enjoy life, and for always, always making me laugh.