My brother T-Bob turns 60 Saturday. We’re not quite sure how this happened; just last week he was a rebellious teen, off to college on a soccer scholarship.
We are very close. Naturally, there are some things we don’t share (he doesn’t want to hear about my runner’s rash), but by and large we’re wide open. He tolerates my obsession with the BeeGees, and I don’t say anything about his Starbucks addiction (which is ridiculous, honestly. An espresso EVERY day?)
The wonderful thing about having siblings is sharing the same memories. If I say “Chopper,” he knows I’m not referring to a Harley or a food processor, but to Dad’s demented Cocker spaniel, who bit literally everyone who crossed her path. He remembers, and laughs hysterically.
“Today that dog would be put to sleep before she was a year old,” he said, which is true. “But back then people just said, ‘That dog is bad to bite,’ and she died of old age.”
“Actually, she was hit by a car,” I said.
“Are you serious? I thought she died in her sleep,” he said.
“Nope, that’s what you get for moving out when you were 16,” I said, which is also true. We were all raised to be independent and left home pretty early, but I was crushed when he moved out during his senior year. Since we’re just 18 months apart, we attended the same schools.
T-Bob was a tough act to follow: When I entered high school, teachers calling roll would say my last name, which wasn’t very common, smile and say, “Are you T-Bob’s sister?” Because he was a charmer, T-Bob was. Teachers liked him, parents liked him, employers liked him. He smiles at people and they give him A’s, jobs, money, you name it.
Not that he and I were always BFFs. He was not impressed by my arrival when he was 18 months old. In fact, he was horrified.
I have the proof: A black-and-white photo of him glaring down at newborn me. He’d actually crawl into my crib, pluck the bottle from my mouth, hide in the closet and drink it down. Then he’d toss the empty back into the crib.
Fifty-some years later, I know him, and he knows me. I know he has an enormous, tender heart.
He doesn’t suffer fools, not for five seconds. After a disoulute youth, eventually our mother’s prayers were answered: He became a devoted family man of profound faith.
He has endless patience with old people and children. He’s proud of his slender, sophisticated wife. He loves to cook. He’s friends with an honest-to-gosh billionaire, and never talks about it.
He’s worked since he was 10, mowing lawns, bagging groceries, delivering newspapers, trimming trees, waiting tables, driving a beer truck, programming computers, flying the friendly skies, giving massages and investigating insurance claims. To this day he has three jobs. Work is his favorite thing to do, besides coaching soccer.
He swears he doesn’t like pets, even as one cat purrs in his lap and another sleeps on his shoulder. “They belong to the kids,” he insists.
Which brings us to maybe the most important thing: At age 60, T-Bob is the parent of 15-year-old twins. His default expression is stunned. Looking up at his 6-foot 2-inch son, stunned. Realizing his children speak three languages, stunned. Shopping for ice skates, stunned. Learning daughter no longer eats meat, stunned.
“I truly have no idea how all this happened,” he says. “One minute I was drinking beer in college, and then ... BAM!”
Then we laugh hysterically, because we remember.