I grew up with three younger brothers. Each of us has had a very distinct path in life and it comes as no surprise to any of us that we are different from one another. The brother who is closest to me in age was always a bit of a fighter. He wasn’t the one to initiate a fight most of the time, but he had a strong sense of justice and wright and wrong. The result is that he never shied away from a chance to stand up for what he believed in. Once, when he was not yet ten, there was a schoolyard fight. I don’t know the details of what was going on, but by the time I was aware of it, it looked like there were at least three other boys all fighting against him. My guess is that someone was bullying and he stood up to the bully. At any rate, the seventh grade teacher, known as a very strong disciplinarian, waded into the fight to break it up. He was a coach and a fairly athletic man and all of the kids in the school were a bit afraid of him. He had a reputation of being very tough. My brother at the time, however, wasn’t paying attention to who was coming at him. He spun around and landed a good sold punch on the teacher. The funny thing is that I don’t remember whether or not he got in trouble for that punch. It did earn him a reputation on the playground and for the rest of his time at school. It might have been his last schoolyard fight.
He was tough. When he was a toddler, my parents had a gat at the top of the basement stairs. He climbed to the top and tumbled down the stairs. My mother rushed down, picked him up and ran to the hospital, which was right behind our home. The doctor came and examined the boy, but no injuries were discovered.
He went through more windows than the rest of us combined. He would chase one of the other of us, the one being chased would slam the storm door on the way out and he’d run into it breaking the glass, and often cutting himself. After this happened several times, our father replaced the glass with a piece of masonite and painted it silver to match the door. I bet you can see this coming - he managed to go through the masonite and break it. No injuries resulted.
He is a lifelong bicycle rider and he’s been in more bicycle wrecks than anyone I know. When he was about 12 he saved up his money and bought a really nice bicycle. It had a banana seat and high rise handlebars and 5 speeds with a t-handle shifter mounted on the crossbar that vaguely resembled the shifter in a car. It also had a speedometer that went to 45 miles per hour. He bragged that he could get the bike going faster than the speedometer would go. We took him up with a dare. The ride started at the top of airport hill, which, in those days, was a gravel road. At the bottom of the hill he’d have to make a left-hand turn onto boulder road which was normally paved, but at the time was being resurfaced, so had a gravel windrow in the middle of it. I was positioned at the bottom of the hill, near the turn as a witness to the feat. By the time he was halfway down the hill he was struggling to maintain control, but pedaling as fast as he could. The turn at the bottom of the hill wasn’t much of a turn at all. He went nearly straight into the gravel windrow, went airborne and he and the bicycle began traveling in different directions. He hit the gravel and slid to a stop. I had visions of him not getting up, but after a few minutes, he got up, and, a bit worse for the wear declared that he’d accomplished the feat. We had no evidence to disprove his claim. When he was an adult, one of his bicycle accidents involved hitting a tree hard enough to split open a bike helmet and earn him a ride in a medivac helicopter, a ride he didn’t even get to remember.
He was a drummer and he got good at it. He played in bands and had visions of becoming a rock star. He practiced and practiced and the sound of the practice drove the rest of us up the wall. Once I gave him a ride in my first car and he pounded on the dashboard with a pair of drumsticks all the way. When we reached the destination, I noticed dents in the top of the dash. They remained for the rest of the time I had the car.
Depending on your perspective he either wasn’t very good at marriage or was really good at it. He’s been married four times that involved official ceremonies and thrown in a few other significant relationships along the way. Then again the last two marriages have been to the same woman and that one seems to be working out for both of them, so perhaps practice makes perfect.
This summer our fourth grandchild was born in Japan. In anticipation of the event, we dipped into savings and bought plane and train tickets so that we could visit the baby and mother and father. It was a wonderful trip. Also this summer, his first grandchild was born. He has only one daughter and she had her first baby. The pictures of the little girl are stunningly beautiful. He lives in western Washington. His daughter and her baby live in New York. I thought sure he would make a trip across the country and I thought it would be the best. He, however, didn’t go. It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me.
I knew, however, that mother and baby were going to make a trip this fall to the west coast. Yesterday, I received a picture of my brother holding the baby that made me cry for joy.
We may be very different, but when it comes to being grandpas, we are very much alike.