Ode to my Brother

In the evening of a long-ago September 23rd, my Dad came to my aunt and uncle’s home to announce the news to me: I had a baby brother. Elated, my Dad expected my response to match his joy. Alas, I ran from the room in tears because my five-year-old heart still held steadfast to my desire for a baby sister! Mom had had a hard go of labor and delivery, and my Dad, thrilled to have a son to carry on the family name, could have spanked me right there! Foolish little girl. One of my greatest earthly gifts arrived that night, even if my stubbornness prevented me from seeing it then.
With five and a half years separating us, we grew up quite like only children. My senior year of high school matched Ken’s year of entering seventh grade, giving us different interests and friends. That year we changed high schools, moving from one that played soccer to one that played football. Ken and I spent an entire weekend of TV football watching while he taught me the rudiments of the game I had not understood at all. We would watch a specific play and Ken would ask, “What cheer should the ‘dumb’ cheerleaders use now?” Ken explained, “The players hate it when you girls are yelling ‘Hold that line,’ while our team is trying to score a touchdown!” While Ken lived to play football, basketball and baseball, I attended college eight hours away and never saw any of his high school games. When he played in an alumni game one fall, I finally got to cheer for him from the sidelines. The summer after eleventh grade, Ken served as a groomsman at my wedding, but our worlds were seldom tangent.
Adulthood brings a shortening of the gap in years, and for that, I will always be thankful. Ken moved to Maryland to job hunt after he finished his degree at Rochester Institute of Technology; he moved in with Dave and me and then cared for our apartment while we lived in Wisconsin. No more the little brother who pestered me, he and I had conversations that explored lots of uncharted water about life and love. He met Sandi, the love of his life. About a month after their wedding, the four of us stood in a cold cemetery and buried our Dad, age 59. Together, Ken and I made trips to South Carolina when our Mom received her diagnosis. Like Dad, she had cancer but she died at age 66. Ken and I often kidded her — and each other — about her having knitted a hot pink layette for her first grandchild and then welcoming six grandsons.
I have gotten over the fact that you were not a baby sister, Ken. I treasure you with each passing day and wish you a terrific birthday.


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