Tuesday, October 11, 2005

My Older, Older Brother

My older, older brother thought big thoughts when I was still short and went to college when I was just ten. He left the sibling harassment to his whistling younger, almost-twin brother. The sibling patriarch invested his time reading books and drinking Dr. Pepper instead. After a haircut he brought me the lollipop, he had no taste for sweets. He was a myth and a giant, and an ever so serious older, older brother to me.

I reached my full height before our first conversation. It took place by telephone. He was in Wyoming about to marry his first love and make his first home. I think I talked more to her more than him. Even now we meet on the phone. He makes the calls. He thinks it’s his duty. He is the first-born after all.

A listener would think our dialogues boring. They aren’t filled with verbal volleyball. Information is tranferred cordially with efficiency. We’re both highly perceptive. We say things directly. What else would you think could possibly occur between an older, older brother and a wide-eyed little girl?

I was an unpredictable child. He drives to avoid the curves. We don’t tell jokes or discuss philosophy. But human exchanges quite often slip through. I treasure those moments particularly.

Once when my son was 16, a phone call went something like this.

me: I would never have talked to my mother like that.
older, older brother: I think I’m hearing a selective memory.
me: What do you mean?
oob: I remember some all-out conversations between you and your mother.
me: Are you kidding? I was scared to stand up to her.
oob: Yep. Definitely selective memory. I saw the same conversations here when your niece had it out with her mother. Like I said she’s too much like her aunt.
me: A truly delightful child.
oob: Balderdash! A true pain in the neck.

Each year on my birthday the call is the same. Some might call it a stage routine.

oob: Is this my older sister? Oh my, you’re up before noon?
me: This is your baby sister who has been working for hours.
oob: You’re the only sister I have, so you’re the older one to me.
me: I see.
oob: Happy Birthday. You know, it’s not the number of years on the car. It’s the number of miles on the chasis. I figure your chasis has far more miles on it than mine.
me: Why thank you, dear brother. I know you mean that in the very best light.
oob: Of course I do. I’m always polite to my elders.

That’s my older, older brother. He’s everything my younger, older brother is not and vice versa. And with both in the end, I will never win. He too is still bigger, taller, and older than me (and always will be).

I’m always stuck with whatever’s left over.

I’ll have to settle for younger, and prettier, and smarter. . . . and nicer, and sweeter, and more fun to be with.

It’s a curse on the baby of the family.

—me strauss Letting me be


Janus said...

I am the baby of my family too, and I am glad you had a real conversation with your brother.

I am still waiting for the day that I have a real conversation with my brother. When I go to his house I feel like an unwanted guest at times.

Maybe its the 8 year difference in age, but my brother and I seem to be from different planets.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Janus,
Interesting that you use that phrase "from other planets" I've often said "My brothers think I come from another planet." I think the years between make a difference. It's my other brother with whom I feel I can't have a conversation--he won't let me grow up.

Families are special people in so many ways.


Bluesky_Liz said...

I enjoyed reading the two entries about your brothers. I wish I have siblings sometimes - I am an only child.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Liz,
thank you for saying you enjoyed these two pieces. I actually thought I would never write about my brothers, but somehow they forced me into it. And where they're involved I can never win.

If you need a sibling, I'll volunteer.


Jennifer said...

I'm the oldest, then a younger brother then a younger sister. She's the baby of the family. We always complained that she got away with more! Even though my parents insist it's not true!

My brother is fiercely protective of my sister when she has problems or something he's ready to go beat up the person who made her sad...yet with me he shrugs and says 'You can deal with it' (which is true, but I find hilarious...)

I like your stories! I swear family stories offer the most insight and usually a good laugh to a person and their personality.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer, Have I told you how nice it is to have you as part of my morning? I guess that would make this room right now into the kitchen table. :)

Family stories do tell a lot about people,especially which stories they remember and how they choose to tell them.

I think the older I get, the more the stories have context and meaning, the more they say something about my son's history.

Write down every story you can while you're young. You'll never regret having them later.


Jennifer said...

Glad to be a part of your morning :) It's nice sharing the morning with friends isn't it :)

I'm currently in the process of writing down the 'family stories' It's fun! I've gotten a good laugh or two :)

easywriter said...

I'm the youngest too, and really enjoyed this story. My Sister and I are galaxies apart though in every way. No similarities at all. :o)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
One of my most favorite quotes is from "Illusions," People from the same family are rarely born under on roof. In that context, I feel like we have a pretty nice family going here too.

ME Strauss said...

Hi easy,
Welcome. Glad to see you have some time to breathe again.

Yeah, at the top there Janus mentions the same thing. I guess we babies all feel we come from a different planet. Must be some sort of older sibling brainwashing thing. :)


Cole Forester said...

I wish I was the baby of my family... Maybe then I could ask my older bros for money and advice.

But alas, I am not.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Cole,
Welcome to the conversation. The problem is that's like saying I wish I lived in the Middle Ages, thinking you'd be the king. You presuppose your older brother would be rich and want to give you things. :)


Cheryl said...

You have the cheek of the younger, the sarcastic wit and directness of the older, and the wisdom of both put together (as both have disparate but true wisdom in their own right). Whats to moan about? :-)

I like oob - sounds like my yyb who is so direct (by email) that he is cautious if I answer in more than one paragraph.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Cheryl,
Funny you should say that . . . My mom used to say that I had two brothers who were exact opposites and my problem was that I tried to be like both of them.


Betty said...

Hi Liz,

First, I have to thank you profusely for not only visiting, but even complimenting me on my new blog! My good friend Garnet forced me to start blogging. Your encouragement is keeping me going.

About the sibling issue: I am the youngest of 3, by 12 years. Like you, I often think of "Illusions" when I wonder how I ended up with those people...heaven knows I need a new family and I'm so glad to have met you!


ME Strauss said...

Welcome to the family Betty,
I think you'll find us a warm and happy bunch.

You take to blogging naturally. I'm delighted that Garnet talked you into it. We can always use more positive energy.


Jozef Imrich, Esq. said...

As the youngest child in the family, I identified with the story in the book entitled 'Born the Rebel.' The oldest children are the rocks of stability while the last born do tend to challenge the status quo ;-)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jozef,
I can see where that does seem to describe you--the rebel challenging the status quo. That must mean you must have been taking on your older siblings regularly. Is that so?


Mark said...

That birthday conversation could have easily been an exchange between my older, older brother and I, scary the resemblance.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Mark,
That is interesting. I always figured my brother wasn't using original material. Maybe he met your brother somewhere. :)

zilla said...

Ahhh, lovely posts, Liz.

My brother is older but younger, my younger sister is younger still; I'm the oldest girl -- the one who will answer the call when the call comes, whatever it is, because sometimes, no matter how much I'd like to be like the younger older or the younger still, chronology doesn't account for what would be more comfortable to me.

I'm the older younger older older, and that's the way it's got to be.

Thought-inspiring post, Liz. As usual.

Why don't I have a question for you today?

ME Strauss said...


I think you don't have a question for me today because we've both managed to confused each other with this younger, older, younger stuff. :)

Siblings are a unique group of the human species. I used to ask myself if they were not my brothers would they be my friends?

So there is my question for you.