My brother, Mike, is the best brother a girl could ask for and today is his 41st birthday. He’s only 1 1/2 years older than me but when we were little, I thought he was SO MUCH older and wiser than me. (HA!) I don’t know where the time has gone, I mean it seems like just yesterday we were little kids and roommates, being yelled at for making too much noise when we were supposed to be sleeping. How did we get so old SO fast?
In many of the houses we lived in growing up, Mike and I shared a room and our beds were on opposite walls. We used to play games when we couldn’t sleep and one of the games was to see who could make the other laugh first (because whoever made noise, got yelled at), and to accomplish this task we made goofy, funny, silly or scary faces at each other. I’m almost certain I was always the first to laugh, (only because he’s funnier looking than me)! Other times, we would throw things across the room at one another or one of us would run over to the other side of the room and hit the other and run back to bed, all in an attempt to see who could get the other in trouble with our parents.
When I was on the losing end, I sometimes had no choice but to resort to “playing wolf” by crying out to my parents, “Mama, Daddy, Mike Hit ME!” and of course, being the little girl with blonde curls and Mike being the big, tough boy, he usually if not always got in trouble. I can just feel myself snickering inside a little even now because “I won”. I would feel sorry for him if I wasn’t his sister and if I weren’t usually on the losing end of whatever “game” we were playing but to me, Mike was always smarter and trickier (some might say devious), than I was, not to mention stronger and faster. I had a big mouth and he could use that to his advantage until I learned how to turn it around! Then he didn’t have a chance. (Poor guy)
If you’d have asked my parents, they probably never thought we’d end up getting along as adults; in fact I’m pretty sure they thought we’d kill each other before we made it to adulthood. We fought like cats and dogs and we played together probably only out of necessity because we usually lived out in the middle of nowhere with nobody else more interesting to play with. I’m sure that if our father was alive and of sound mind, he would be shocked to see us today.
We moved a lot as children and I do mean A LOT…we went to over 20+schools, no kidding. I can list the places we’ve lived (I have it written down in a journal somewhere), and our journeys took us throughout South and Central Florida, all over Georgia, to the mountains in North Carolina and back to Florida time and time again. It was fun, exciting and adventurous for the most part and it meant that many times, we were each others only playmates (other than dogs or horses or other animals), at least until we met new friends and then ignored each other again.
Many of our earliest years we had cousins living either with us or nearby and poor Mike, he was the only boy with a little sister and four female cousins. Luckily, one of our cousins, Dawn, was a “tomboy” and they were the best of friends. Our other three cousins included Debbie, the eldest of the four, she was smart, beautiful and outgoing but she was too “mature” to play with the likes of us (lol). She always wanted to be with the “grown ups”. Next was Lisa, she was very shy, quiet and moody (it was her age but I didn’t realize it at the time). I feel badly for her looking back because she was always kind of left out. She was younger than Debbie with a completely opposite personality and older than the rest of us who were paired off for life (or so we thought). Mike and Dawn as I mentioned were two peas in a pod and as the youngest of the bunch, my cousin Tammy and I, we were inseparable. We were going to be “Laverne and Shirley” when we grew up!
I was about 8 years old when my Aunt, Uncle and four cousins were living with us in a teeny place called Royston Georgia. We all had wonderful times together and great memories until the adults had a huge falling out (which to this day I don’t know what it was about), and the next thing I remember they were just gone. I didn’t understand what had happened, I didn’t get to say goodbye and I missed them so much I thought I would just die. I’m sure Mike felt the same way about Dawn as I did about Tammy. To me, my cousin Tammy was like my twin soul or something, I loved her more than I can say and that love would remain that way for many years to come (but that’s another story). Anyway, the loss of our cousins left Mike and I both brokenhearted, with just each other again until we moved to the next town.
Starting around 11 or so, our lives started to change for the worse and there was a time when he absolutely hated me. I’m sure I deserved it; looking back I imagine I was pretty damn annoying to live with! Add to that boy hormones, more people moving in and out of out of our houses and lives, dysfunctional family stuff and a nightmare of a father and I’m just grateful we got through that time alive and with all of our wits intact. Mike is no angel, don’t get me wrong, he did the usual big brother things like sitting on me and holding my arms under his knees, slapping me in the face over and over and laughing hysterically, or letting a big gross, long “loogie” drop out of his mouth getting only centimeters from touching my face and then slurping it up again! One of his favorite things to do to me was to grab my wrists and make me slap myself in the face over and over taunting me with “Why are you hitting yourself Kathy? Why are you hitting yourself?” Hilarious! Sure it’s funny now but it’s no wonder I have panic attacks and phobias now. Boys are so gross!!!
When we fought, we fought hard; I learned how to fight from my brother. He was always a big tough guy (the only 4 year old boy in summer bible school to get kicked out for kicking another boy with his cowboy boots!), and I was a girly girl/cry baby if you ask him. Because of my strong, competitive and “hard-headed” personality, I learned early on how to defend myself (which would later get me into trouble!) even against the likes of my big brother!
The summer before 8th grade, we moved to a place called Loxahatchee, Florida which was in the middle of nowhere (swamp land) and I was no longer being a “girly girl-cry baby”. I remember Mike proudly showing his friends how tough his little sister was by picking on me until I lost my temper (which was very short back then) until inevitably I would end up physically attacking him. This he found hilarious and in an odd way, a source of pride. His friends always seemed impressed or at least amused watching the spectacle and at the time, I was too angry to realize that I was making an ass of myself. Besides, having these cute boys gush all over me wasn’t half bad! I hadn’t met any girls to be friends with yet so any attention was good attention as far as I was concerned! I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s when I started to notice boys…my brother’s friends would never be safe from that time on!
When I was about 14 or 15, all of the sudden, my brother became SO overprotective that he and his buddies would corner any boy that liked me and give them a terrifying “talk” about the consequences of dating “Big Mike’s” little sister, which of course, scared many boys away. At the time it was embarrassing and infuriating and now it’s just endearing (and funny). However, my brother would become my hero during my teen years and would save my life at least once, when he put himself in between my father and myself long enough for me to get a head start and then meeting me later on the long dirt road in his car to take me to a safe place. I’ll never forget the wonderful things he did for me as a teen. Things he didn’t have to do, things most brothers would not have done for their annoying little sisters, but he did anyway out of the kindness of his heart.
I had a huge wake up call on New Years Day of this year, when my brother, Mike, who was only 40 at the time, had a heart attack. I realized then, that it’s time to stop being “sisterly” and not saying things that you think the other person already knows because it’s embarrassing or “mushy”. I try to remember to tell him how much I love and appreciate him as often as I can. It’s usually via text message (still working on that mushy stuff lol) but at least I am trying to make sure he knows what a wonderful brother he is and that I am so happy to be blessed to be his little sister.
There are so many memories, precious memories that have been shared with my brother and nobody else. Places we’ve lived, things we’ve been through, people who’ve come in and out of our lives. Who else do you share this kind of bond with in your life? Childhood is such an odd thing; when looking back at it now, it seems like another lifetime.
When my brother and I reminisce about our childhood or teen years, there are some things we remember exactly the same and others, well it was as if he had lived a completely different life than me. We grew up together, we saw the same things, were around the same people, lived in the same places, yet our memories are sometimes completely different from one another. That’s something I just don’t understand, how he can see a situation in a completely different way than me even though we were both standing there seeing, hearing and experiencing it together! The funny thing is that Mike and I are SO different; you’d never guess we grew up together.
Things have changed so many times during our lifetime. From where we started to where we are now has indeed been the journey of a lifetime (that is not over yet!). That journey has taken us through four decades starting in the late, late 60’s, moves from town to town, state to state, all of the stages in life from growing up together sharing the same parents to actually becoming parents. It has taken us through marriages, divorces, illness, success, failure, joy, and even the deaths of family and friends.
Somewhere along the line we learned to tolerate our differences even though we may not understand the others point of view and finally, we have come to a place of what I believe is mutual love and respect. Personally, I have to add complete admiration to that list because there are so many qualities that I admire in my brother, so many adversities that he has had to overcome. I could probably write a short book about his many qualities but in the end it all comes down to one thing.
People come and go throughout your life. Unfortunately, even family members who you think will always be there, but the relationship between siblings is one of a kind. It is a lifelong bond formed by a lifetime of shared experiences that cannot be duplicated or replaced. It is a blessing that we too often take for granted until we get a “wake up call” like that of my brother’s heart attack.
I just want to say, for the record, Happy Birthday to my big brother, Mike. I am so glad that I have been able to share 39 of YOUR 41 years (HAHAHA) with you so far and I pray that we will be able to share the rest of our lives together! Thanks for making me an Auntie to the two most precious baby girls in the entire world and for being such a great Uncle even when my boys don’t appreciate it! You are a spectacular human being and you deserve all of the love and happiness that the world has to offer, DO NOT SETTLE for less! You know what I’m talking about. (Sorry, I just have to throw in some advice there). I LOVE YOU!
Seriously though, how did we get this old?