Happy birthday, T-Bob!
My beloved brother, T-Bob, turns 54 this month. He has no idea how this happened.
Where do the years go? Just yesterday he was an 18-year-old soccer standout weighing scholarship offers. (He stayed in our hometown of Wilmington, N.C. You can take the boy out of the beach, but… )
I love all my kin, but T-Bob and I have a special bond. Too bad it took more than 20 years to develop.
Let me explain: As children, T-Bob and I fought pitched battles, with bloody noses and busted lips. Dad used to say to Mom, “One of them won’t make it to adulthood.” I thought him hateful; he thought me stupid. He used to say, “The problem with you, Juju, is that you have no brain. None. Zip. Nada.”
When he was 11 and I was 10, he pushed me out of the silver maple tree by the cement pond. Something in me snapped. I limped into the garden shed where Dad kept a metal pizza turner. (We never ate pizza and Dad didn’t cook, so who knows why he owned one.)
T-Bob had climbed down and was strolling towards the house for his nightly Fig Newton when I emerged, pizza turner clutched in trembling paw.
He looked back, saw my murderous face and started to run and scream simultaneously. As he bolted for the back door, I hurled the pizza turner underhanded at a spot just ahead of his feet. He ran right into it—BAM!!--and the metal gashed his shin like a razor. He dropped to the ground howling. As I walked past him, I muttered, “No brain, brother. No brain.”
Dad handed him a box of Band-Aids and said, “Son, this should teach you not to bully your sister.” I am happy to report, it did.
We still weren’t friends, exactly, but we maintained a wary truce for years. Then one day in my early 20s, the phone rang and T-Bob said, “I wanted to get your opinion on something.” When I came to, there ensued a nice conversation between two intelligent adults. Which neither one of us is, but still.
Today we’re thisclose. Which is pretty impressive, considering A) Our battling history and B) The fact that we’re as different as two people born to the same parents can be.
He liked to party and never met a stranger. I stayed home and did my nails and needlepoint. He plays tennis, he plays the guitar, he builds Web sites, he’s an amazing chef. The only thing I play is the radio, and I can barely navigate Facebook. Let’s not even go there with my cooking.
We do share one trait: impatience. We were both born thinking life is too short. For me, that translated into compulsive reading and traveling. For him, it meant earning money. He started mowing lawns at 10. At 11 he added a paper route. At 16 he added a night job as a grocery store stocker. That same year, he moved into an apartment with three college students. Working three jobs, being an honor student, lettering in two sports, and paying rent. Don’t ask me how he did it. I have no idea.
Today T-Bob still has three jobs (masseuse, airline purser and insurance adjuster), along with a wife, two kids and a posse of friends. He’s having a blast, and he tells me all about it in our thrice-weekly phone chats. Somehow, he wound up being my best friend.
Happy birthday, brother. I love you.
Julie R. Smith, who now realizes sibling rivalry doesn’t have to involve stitches, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.