Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Big Brother

     My brother is five years older than I am.  We shared a room together till I was in second grade.  Even still I spent plenty of time with him after we had our own rooms.  He was there for his little sister and I looked up to him.  I may have played with dolls but I was more happy being a little tomboy.   Maybe that is why he wasn't mean to me.  Maybe I was more like a little brother.  When we shared a bedroom together it was done in a boy style.  We had a trundle bed of rustic blonde wood with a matching dresser.  The prints on our bedspread and curtains were a large plaid of dark colors.  There was a rocker as well.  Nothing girly in that room.

     One birthday Gene received as a gift a model of Frankenstein.   After he put it together he set it in on our dresser.  I was scared of that model with the red eyes and creepy face.  I felt like it was watching me.  It gave me nightmares staring down at me in my bed.  It later was placed on the top shelf of our closet where the door could be closed.  More of the toys in the room were of his which I didn't mind, like model airplanes and cars.

     He taught me many board games that we played together.  I don't remember him getting mad at me if I didn't understand the game.  The only game I had trouble with and didn't enjoy playing was Stratego.  I just didn't get it or enjoy it.  Another game he did was to set up playing cards at the end of our hall like houses which he could even get to go two stories high.   Once the cards were set he would go back aways and shoot them down with rubber bands.  He taught me how to do this as well.  Simple times together.  

     We both liked anything cowboy.  I was into anything that involved cowboys because of the horses they rode.  I loved horses!  Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Zorro were a big hit with us.  He had several cowboy birthday parties where we would get dressed up with cowboy hats and boots.  Our little 45 record collection of music in our room was country tunes which I only wish I still had.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans being my favorite.  

     To me my brother was my protector.  As long as he lived at home he seemed to look out for me.  I didn't always like that but he took on the big brother role with purpose.  He was a focused student and always did well in school.  He was actively involved with the youth group at our church and he enjoyed  singing  with the "Up With People" group.  He played piano for awhile and then went on to playing guitar.   He played baseball, did swim team for the high school and also was big into Boy Scouts.  He and our stepfather spent hours building model airplanes which then they would fly.  To me he could do anything and do it well.   I on the other hand failed with piano, struggled with school, was bored with youth group at our church, and didn't do swim team let alone know how to swim.  I somehow lived in his shadow.   I didn't resent him though at all.  I did wish however that someone would notice my interests like they noticed his.  When Gene wanted to learn how to fly sailplanes the whole family would drive to Fremont so he could do this.  Yet only Bill, my stepfather, would go when I took horseback riding lessons.  My mother never went. 

     When my brother was accepted into the Air Force Academy after high school I lost my protector.  He left in the summer after graduation and never moved back home or to California after that.  His visits were scheduled like leaves from the Military.  Not long or frequent.  My parents paid little attention to me but rode on the coat tails of pride in their son being accepted into such a prestiges school.  I had hit the rough, rebellious age of 13 and wasn't exactly a happy teen.  Another year and half later my parents marriage ended.  Another man left my life.  My brother while not abandoning us was out of my life due to his commitment of duty with the Air Force.   Bill left us and my life without a glance back.  I was left with my mother and grandmother but most of the time I was just left alone. My grandmother visited her sister often and my mom went back to work.  We lived in an apartment in a town I hated.  All I had was my horse.  Thank God I had my horse.  I cried into his neck and mane many a time.   My lifeline to normalcy was hanging out at the barn at the fairgrounds daily.  I forgot about family life the way it use to be.  I forgot about my brother except for when he could visit.

     Life did eventually improve.  Those rough years past on to better days for all of us.  A new marriage for my mom, then my brother married and then I married as well.  There were times we didn't always agree and I am sure there will be more times we won't but I do know I have a big brother who is in my life.  He has a different way of seeing things than I.  I react with a lot of emotion whereas he is more analytical.  He is still learning about the little sister he left when he went off to college.  I changed a lot during his years away as well he did too.  He left me just as I was becoming a young woman.   We each carried our pains of what happened when Mom divorced Dad and when she and Bill divorced.  His more different than mine.  He became more devout as a Christian and I became less so.  We each have a large loving family, he with three boys and I with three girls and then my one son.  We both hit the jackpot with spouses and have stayed married to them, he 34 years and I 32 years.  I believe we both had the same desire with our marriages, that we would marry for life and have stability for our children.  We both have moved around a lot when it comes to homes yet we have each lived the longest in our current homes.  The best thing my mom did do was see to it that our families got together once a year since my brother lived out of state.  It was a way for our children to get to know each other and to reconnect as a family.  Looking back I appreciate that more and more.  For all the difficulties of her as our mother, on those trips we were able to build good memories.  I don't know had she not planned this how often it would have happened that we would all be together.  

     My brother and I are bound together just like most siblings, yet we each carry the confusion, the mystery, and of present the aging of our mother. Because I live near my mom I have become the liaison of her health.  Her denial of her health makes every detail of wanting to help her difficult.  How could we be her children I have asked myself.  We who love without conditions to our family, who support our children and their interests, who want our children to not have secrets or taboo topics with us.  I wonder what personality traits are carried on from our parents at birth.  Am I like my dad?  Am I like my mom?  I don't think I am either but I am choosing to be me.  Not someone I can't identify with.  Does my brother wonder this too?  I can see my big brother when we are little kids.  We may not have been close in age but he took the time to be loving towards me.  One of the sweet memories is of him trying to teach me to drive his brand new Firebird with a stick shift.  He took me to the mall's parking lot when it was quiet and no other cars around.  So patiently he tried to teach me yet I stalled it out constantly.  He never got mad or said forget it.  He just was there, calmly letting me learn while we shared time before he went back to school.



Kaiti said...

oh pound my heart, yet let me free
thanks be Ellen, for the lessons

Sara Louise said...

I just love that first photo. You two are almost in the television!

Iva said...

so sweet. I wish I had siblings!!

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Love the photos...and it's the story of so many of our lives...
Beautifully written.

Shannon Marie Pace said...

I want you to write about your horse!
That image of you crying into his mane is going to stay with me all day. Sweet.

Kera said...

Wonderful stories! And that first picture is the sweetest ever. Thanks for your comment on my blog! nice to meet you.

Hero Megan Elizabeth Frasheski said...

the photo of you two watching tv is beautiful..


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