Today is my brother’s birthday, and I want to take time to acknowledge that as far as brothers go, he’s been a terrific one. We grew up together for nearly eight years before my sister, Karen, was born. We had established such a strong bond by the time she came along, and there were so many years separating us from her, she got short shrift and felt like an only child.
Most brothers do not want their little sisters hanging around, but my brother always let me come with him when he went to play with his friends. Even if all I did was watch from the sidelines, he knew I was there, and I just liked being near him. I don’t know why we were so close because we couldn’t have been more different. He wasn’t afraid of anything, and I was afraid of everything. I liked books and music. He liked being outdoors and playing very physical sports like hockey, soccer, and rugby. Our bond had nothing to do with what we liked to do, but with whom we liked to be, and we liked being together. My brother has always been protective of me, and it’s hard to find a picture of us together where his arm is not around me.
Many times we double-dated in high school or went to parties together. I remember one night we double-dated and took separate cars. He told me not to go back to the house until he was ready to leave because my father always said, in response to our question of what time we had to come home, “Use your own discretion.” My brother felt that my father would be okay with our discretion as long as we came home at the same time. One time he paid me to stay out a little longer. I think it was only a buck…we were both cheap.
We went to college together at the University of Connecticut. I will always remember one treasured time with him when he had to take water samples at half-hour intervals all night long at Black Pond, a pond deep in the woods of rural Connecticut. It was for one of his ecology classes, and I think he was testing for how temperature affected bacteria count. I don’t remember; he was the science major, and I was the English major. It was a frigid March evening, and he asked me to come along for company. We sat in his little black MGB and talked and laughed until dawn. I have no memory of what we talked about, but the feeling of closeness we shared that night has never left me.
My brother’s beautiful red hair is white now, and I don’t think he’d be able to pick up a hockey stick anymore and play a fast-paced game, or make an incredible head-shot into the soccer goal as he did in college, earning him the name of “The Dazzler,” but when I look at him, I still see my big brother, sitting in that cold little car in the woods, making me feel warm and wanted. Happy Birthday, Mark!