Those with a younger brother know these truths to be self-evident:
- The older brother is smarter.
- The older brother is better looking.
- The older brother is everything the younger brother wants to be but can’t – because, you know, he’s the younger brother.
Thursday night, my younger brother strapped into a wrecker, cranked that damn Dodge 5500 behemoth and headed to Houston. The good folks in Texas need help hauling flooded vehicles to a boneyard. He and my nephew, driving another rig for Wrecker Works, will be there for at least two weeks.
Thing is, as the older brother, you always have an eye on the youngster, no matter if he’s 7 or 47. Thing is, when he was 7 we were together every day. Now, he’s 47 and there’s a lot of distance between us – even more with him headed to Houston.
When he was 7, I could protect him (even if he didn’t know he needed protecting). I could also pound on him for the heck of it. (And I pounded on him a lot – football in the front yard, whiffle ball, basketball … he was my personal punching bag.)
Then I put a Figure-4 leg lock on him one day like Austin Idol put on Jerry Lawler at the Mid-South Coliseum – except my brother didn’t tap out. So, I went for the sleeper hold. He passed out. Me? I freaked out. (“OMG, you’ve killed Kenny!” – the South Park guys got that from me.) However, I was able to revive him before mom or dad got to the bedroom-turned-rasslin’ ring.
Yes, I saved his life. Never let him forget it, either. (Yes, he reminds me that his life wouldn’t have needed saving if I hadn’t put him in a sleeper hold. … Whatever. Details.)
He was there when the kitchen caught on fire. (I was in the bathroom.) It was a Saturday; mom and dad were at work. Of course, he was hungry so I grabbed some bacon from the fridge, put it on a cookie sheet, popped it in the oven – just like I’d watched my mom do.
While I was dropping off Teddy and the kids at the pool, smoke began to waft toward the bathroom. I gathered myself and went to check on breakfast. When I opened the oven door, grease popped on the red-hot element and – whoosh! – flames raced up the cabinets, smoke filled the kitchen, the living room, the hallway …
I grabbed the pan (gotta save the bacon!), closed the oven door (gotta kill the fire!), dropped the pan on the linoleum floor (yep, scorched that booger but good), and saved the day … all while my brother was cuddled under an afghan mumbling about, “Smoke can’t get me under here.”
After surveying the damage – and yelling at my brother for not keeping an eye on the bacon as I’d told him to do – I decided we could clean up the smoke damage before mom and dad got home. My best friend’s dad even stopped by to check out the mess. (Amo never said so, but I’m sure he giggled at our feeble attempt to cover our tracks …)
Long story short, the insurance claims adjuster was not happy we’d mucked-up the damage – but still, mom’s kitchen was repaired and the ceilings were repainted.
Three years younger than me, we played on the same ball team once – my senior year of high school. The first time I pulled down my mask, squatted behind the plate and looked to the right – my best friend Graham at second, my brother Kenny in right field – it was a keeper moment.
And then I left home. In the past 30-plus years, I’ve lived in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee chasing God-knows-what and finding God knew my heart was where it all began. My brother has been a homebody; you can stand on his front porch and, with a strong enough stream, pee into my parents’ side yard. Every family needs a black sheep, and I’m OK with him wearing the white hat.
But I’ve always been a phone call away. Him, too. We’ve been cross a few times; he’s learned to get over it. (The older brother being right is another of those self-evident truths.)
Now he’s on the road to help people he’s never met. Houston will be a life experience – but he’ll leave Texas better than he found it. There are some things your parents teach that you never forget …
I’ve learned the older brother isn’t smarter. The older brother isn’t better looking. The younger brother is everything the older brother wants to be but can’t – because, you know, he’s not Kenny.
Safe travels. Come home safely. There will be a fire pit and a bottle of Sinatra Select waiting …