Little brothers are g-g-g-great! If you can swing it, I highly recommend having one…and I can say that now because I don’t live with mine and haven’t for years. And I am especially reminded of how great it is to have a brother because today is my littlest bro’s birthday. (Insert birthday horns here!)
I dont’ remember the day my youngest brother came on the scene. I think I might have been three or four and those kinds of things don’t really register when you’re little. What I can honestly attest to is that I can’t remember a day in my childhood when he wasn’t around. His cute little, round-cheeked, skinny self running around the house…usually right behind my other brother. To this day I still refer to them as “the boys” (notice the plural) because they were always together! And together they managed to get into all kinds of adventures. But this blog is an ode to the birthday brother so I’ll try to stay on task.
My memories include all the regular little brother stuff like how he would play with toy trucks, get dirty, play sports, get dirty, bother me, and get dirty (of course it didn’t help that our backyard at the time was nothing but dirt.) But he did other things, too, and some of them still put a grin on my face to this very day! I remember the summer he wouldn’t wear shorts. I’m not sure of the real reason behind this abnormality, although I have my theories, but he just flat out refused to wear shorts one summer. Instead he opted for jeans! Jeans in the hot, dry western Kansas heat. I can remember it was a family effort to try to convince him to wear shorts. It was a battle we lost. I can still picture him on the sidewalk in front of the house with a pair of black jeans on…and his little shirt was tucked in! But those jeans were the least of his worries. During one of the summers when he did wear shorts that boy had more mosquito bites than the whole population of GC! He had welts the size of ping pong balls and they always got infected. He practically bankrolled the Campho-Phenique corporation that summer! The mosquitoes sure must have thought that kid was sweet (I’ll throw him a bone, after all it is his birthday!) Other summer memories include his obsession, or was it superstition, with Gatorade gum and sunflower seeds. (Upon a recent trip home a story was relayed to me that he is still crazy about sunflower seeds. A little bird told me that he uses his prechool-aged son as a pack mule for carrying around three different flavors of sunflower seeds at a time. If you’re ever in need, check his boy’s backpack for sustenance!)
My littlest brother was also a bit of a clown and could be counted on for a laugh or a quick remark at anytime. This orneriness landed him in trouble once or twice (ha ha) and he was lucky that he was such a cute little boy– it was his saving grace! As a consequence of his cuteness, little girls were always buzzing around, going to his ball games and calling our house. Not sure if he’ll admit it, but I think he secretly liked all the attention. Things got weird in high school when girls my age were asking who’s “that guy” and it turns out they were pointing to my kid brother! It got even weirder when a friend of mine called and I started chatting with her when she interrupted me to say that she was actually calling to talk to him. Awkward. But as fate would have it, he is now the father of two beautiful girls and a darling little boy and I can’t wait to see how he handles the consequences of their “cuteness.” I can already hear him saying, “Well things were different when I was your age….”
I could go on and on about my littlest brother, but I will stop short and relay my two favorite stories. The first takes place in Allen Fieldhouse during a Jayhawk game. I remember him sulking because he had to accompany my folks on a weekend visit to see me in Lawrence. Poor guy! He happened to be in trouble (again?) and my parents were afraid a typical grounding would be ineffective if they were out-of-town. I’m sure the house party invites were already out by the time my folks told him he had to go with them on their road trip. He was not very happy. So while thousands of Jayhawk fans were screaming at the sight of the Jayhawks and Jacque Vaughn running through the tunnel, my brother sat sulkily in his chair sucking on a soda. Nevermind the awesomeness of seeing the Jayhawks play at home. Nevermind being on the hallowed grounds of basketball history. Nevermind that it’s next to impossible to get tickets to a Jayhawk game. As the saying goes, “Beware the Phog,” but that afternoon it was more like the Phog should beware him. Hell has no fury like a boy who lost his house party!
And my all time favorite story takes place back in high school. He was a freshman (I was a senior) and he was having a hard time relating to his math teacher (and that’s putting it nicely.) As I bounded around the corner in JDA, I almost fell over myself at the sight of my brother sitting in the hallway. This floored me for two reasons: 1) I didn’t know teachers put high school kids in the hallway and 2) I wouldn’t have imagined that if a teacher did put him in the hallway that he would have actually STAYED! Okay, you’re thinking what is so exceptional about this story? Well here it is. I used to tell my friends that my brother was destined for great things, if only he would put all his energy into good instead of evil. It’s a little dramatic, but I think it was right on. As a kid, my brother was a good-hearted, funny, spirited, adventurous people magnet…what he didn’t realize was that he was also thoughtful, kind, intelligent and a born leader! Today, my dearest little brother is a TEACHER and works at our old middle school where he also coaches football and freshman baseball. In a twisty sort of tale that is all his own, he found his way out of that high school hallway and made his own round-the-way path to success!
He’s no longer the round-cheeked, skinny fella tagging along after my brother. He’s much more than that. He’s a terrific son, brother, friend, cousin, husband, father, uncle, son-in-law, brother-in-law, child of God and TEACHER who puts his energy into good and making a positive difference in the lives of others. He’s the teacher with a story that even the orneriest child can relate to. But let’s not kid ourselves here, it is a little funny to know that as a 30-something year old man you can still find him hanging around in the hallways at school!
On your birthday, may you find joy, blessings and lots of laughter, little brother. Enjoy your day. YOU ARE LOVED.
A brother is a better defense than a strong city. Proverbs 18:19