by Archie Wortham
"Of course I'm your friend. I'm your brother."
I'm not sure about you, but those are not words I can admit to having heard lately. Either being said to me by my brother, or having said those words to a brother who'd hear them. I'm not sure what it is about siblings, but somewhere along the way some of us find it difficult to love each other like we love our friends. We drift apart. A chasm develops caused not by miles or time, but sheer stubbornness or emotional baggage, which we should have checked on a cheap flight out of our lives. This baggage causes our children to miss the opportunity to know a part of us that's missing.
When I heard Jeremy, who was 7 at the time, answer 3 year old Myles' question, I was amazed at the abject sincerity and sheer depth of his words. It was as if he was saying I don't have a choice. It was as if he was saying, even if I had a choice, I'd still choose to be your friend. It was as if he was saying "thanks mom and dad, for giving me a brother." Do any of us take that gift for granted?
I can't speak for anyone else, but I know there's been a lot of pain with my brother that's caused me to never wish a similar separation to happen with Jeremy and Myles. I do realize as with any dance, or any attempt to offer praise, it takes two to tango. It takes two hands to clap. My brother and I have still not come to grips with the fact we are on the same side. How wonderful it would be to share this story with him, and hope he would share it with his sons. How wonderful it would be to hear his laughter, share his sorrow, and plead with him to understand that life is too short not to share it with family. I love my brother. I admire him in ways he'll never know or understand because he's chosen to exclude me from his life. He's smart, resourceful, and in many ways a dimension of me I could explore if he allowed me.
Yet it seems we, men in particular, get scared in close relationships. I remember my brother introducing me to chess. I love the game to this day. I cannot play without thinking of him. Competition is an evil thing if not controlled. My brother and I inherited a competitive edge, and the day I beat him three straight games of chess, the summer of '68, was the last time we played. To this day, I cannot understand that. Why is our need to beat and be the best greater than our need to be a part of a whole? I miss that whole. I miss my brother. Moreover, I made a vow, and pray often God honors it. I pray that Jeremy and Myles will have the comfort, the counsel, and presence of each other, even after mom and dad are with them only in habits, pictures, and dreams. I cannot claim the honor of the exchange between Jeremy and Myles. It was far too intimate and precious for an adult to even touch. The idea that Myles at three asked Jeremy who, then, was almost seven, if he was his friend baffled my limited mind. His words convicted me deeply on what I've missed--a big brother to answer with strength and finality that part of his mission in life is tied to making sure his little brother knows he'll always be his friend.
Jeremy and I have had some special times. Being the first is always special. And though I've had more time to spend with Myles, due to career changes I made, Jeremy still knows he'll always be special. He knows he will always be my best Buddy. An honor that will always be his. Unlike the term son, which he and Myles share, Jeremy's "best buddy" appellation is as special as the "little buddy" pet name we gave Myles. Kids don't care if their other brother or sister is special to mom or dad, as long as mom and dad reminds them there's a special place in mom's and dad's heart, with their name on it.
I'd been putting off writing my brother since I got a Christmas card from him about six weeks late because the address was wrong. He'd probably have had a better chance just sending it "Jeremy's Dad, Universal City, Texas." But he did send me a card. It was the first card in many years. There was no note, just a card with his signature. Knowing my brother as I do, I knew in his own way he was asking me if he had a friend. And like Jeremy, I guess I have no choice. "Of course I'm your friend. I'm your brother." That's a note I'm sure a lot of us could use to make our parents happy, because once dad is gone, who can we men turn to? Wouldn't it be nice to truly be able to say we could turn to a friend who happens to be our brother? So do it. Send a note or call, before the holidays are over. It's been two years since I got that note. Things are not what I'd like them to be, but they are getting there, and it's because I want more for my sons than I had--a brother. And I'm working on it.
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