I meant to put this together yesterday and post it for my brother Mike’s birthday, but you know, I got caught up in stuff like watching The Simpsons and eating multiple pieces of cake and sleeping like the dead. Mike was born two months prematurely, so really I should get a two month grace period for anything pertaining to his birthday!
Some people think it must’ve been strange to have just one sibling and him be twelve years older than me, but I thought it was the coolest thing ever! My mother lost a baby between Mike and me. I had always understood how painful that must have been for Mom, but it only recently occured to me how incredibly disappointing and sad it must have been for Mike too. There was little certainty that my mom and dad would be able to have another child, so when I finally came along it’s an understatement to say that I was doted on and treated like everyone’s little miracle princess with my big brown eyes and my brown curly ringlets of hair. (A princess that wound up a baseball cap wearing smartass, but a princess nonetheless.)
Since Momma and Daddy still had to raise me right and keep me in line, their princess treatment couldn’t be carried to an extreme. But Mike could be my big brother, my friend and my hero. And he’s always been all those things to me.
When I was about four, he had a super-cool bedroom with flourescent green walls, black light posters, and scary things like a stuffed, mounted, fangy rattlesnake head and disturbing Alice Cooper posters. He’d let me listen to his stereo where he introduced me to cool music like “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard and “DOA” by Bloodrock! He’d let me fall asleep in his room looking at all the wonders of the black light. And when he’d come home late, he would bring me surprises like kites and balsa wood airplanes that he’d hide for me to find the next morning.
He played baseball, so I wanted to play baseball. (I remember feeling tricked when my mom signed me up for some half-baked girl sport called “softball.”) He was trying to pack on weight for football, so I wanted to pack on weight too. He was never too old to play catch or throw pitches to his little sister. And we played epic games of H-O-R-S-E where the ultimate shot was to fade away from behind the porch column and bank it in off the backboard. (Fare -the-well for I must leave thee….)
He’d fly me down the big hill behind our house on the handlebars of his badass green Schwinn with the banana seat; and when we got a little older, he take me out for rides down the country roads of Bill Arp in his souped up brown Chevy Nova where we’d sing along to eight-track tapes of The Eagles while the wind blew through the open windows and toussled our long hair.
When I was seven, he was going to college at West Georgia and working nights at Pizza Hut. Some Saturday nights, he would come home after work with a pizza, wake me up and we’d eat pizza and watch “Saturday Night Live” together. I didn’t get most of the jokes, but I’d laugh really hard when he laughed and felt like I was putting something over on my parents by being up so late.
In my early teens, he would take me with him to his day-long softball tournaments out of town. (He hit the ball to the opposite field as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen!) He introduced me to the bewitching concept of chocolate doughnuts and Cokes from the convenience store for breakfast! And I saw some really good softball. (Baldwin Electric, State Champs! Whut!!!)
A few years later when I was in the eighth grade, I was acting like a jackass on the ballfield and at school on a regular basis, and he stepped up and told me he was ashamed of me. Somewhere in the midst of that conversation, I told him how much I was hurting because I was being bullied at school for being fat. He explained to me that bullies just wanted to get a rise out of me, and if I’d just laugh along with them, they’d quit in a hurry. I was doubtful, but I put that plan into action. Within two weeks I didn’t have a bully anymore. And I never wanted Mike to be ashamed of me ever again, so I straightened up my act. My life was truly changed from that point forward.
As I got older, we didn’t spend as much time together, but I’ve never loved him any less. He’s been there for me during my marriage, my divorce, my weird boyfriend, my alcoholism and my depression. In fact, a discussion with him played a key role in my recovery from that depression this summer. He is always there and I know I can always count on that.
Mike has told me that even as a toddler I wasn’t one to express much affection. But trust that even if I’m not always good at showing it on the outside, I am forever full of love and admiration for him on the inside! He’s everything a brother, a friend and a hero should be.
Love you forever, brother! Thank you for all the gifts!