Today is my older brother Steven's 58th Birthday. After our telephone chat this morning, I realized that since we were teenagers, I have not hung out with him very often. He went to the Army and soon after I went to college and we’ve lived in different cities ever since. I began to think about how much he may have changed since then and that I probably don’t know the current Steven like I knew him when we were kids.
Steven has always seemed to effortlessly connect with people. He has a quick wit, an easy smile and can make anyone laugh. When we were younger, he made friends quickly no matter what neighborhood we lived in and he was popular with the kids that we played neighborhood football and rode bikes with.
For the longest time, I believed my Dad liked Steven better than he liked me. I came to realize that they just liked some of the same things at a deeper level than I did. I loved playing in the impromptu football games in front of Hallett Elementary with cousins and other kids from our neighborhood and was a huge Denver Broncos fan so watching football was part of our Sunday ritual but my Dad was usually at a sports bar watching. I was not a basketball fan but both my Dad and Steven would watch NBA games at home during the week and discuss/argue players’ and teams’ ability in a way that was foreign to me.
Steven is just a much cooler and more laid back guy. He would hang out with some of our older cousins and do who knows what. I never felt like I fit in with them. I was cool doing crazy stuff with my brothers, sisters and 1st cousins but my older cousins crazy was a whole other level which intimidated me.
My senior year of high school and early college years, Steven was in the Army. I received many letters from him while he was stationed in Germany. He was always talking about the ladies. The ladies in Germany, the ladies in Spain, the ladies in Denver that better watch out when he returns. Some things never change or maybe they do, he's married now.
His letters were always encouraging and supportive, he was the big brother on the other side of the world watering the seeds of the dreams I planted. I still have a few of his letters and one in particular from October 1982 when I was a freshman at ASU. Apparently, I wrote him and told him about all the new and different experiences I was having with my hopes and dreams thrown in for good measure. In his letter, he writes: “Congratulations on the dance contest and good luck in the finals. I know you’ll do your best to get first place. I also know you will make the gymnastics team so don’t worry about it. If your mind is set on something all you can do is give it your all. So go for it all and I’m sure you’ll get far and make everyone proud of you.”
I am not sure he knows how much those words meant to me. I am so grateful to our parents for creating an environment where all of us kids became adults who love each other. There was a time when I am sure my parents questioned if they were doing it right because we used to physically fight what seems now like everyday. We would gang up on each other 3 on 1 and occasionally 2 on 2. Before my younger brother was born, we’d create alliances and if we weren't fighting we were teasing the lone man out. We’d identify the flaws in each other and focus on that to verbally abuse each other. Steven interestingly enough didn’t have a glaring flaw that we were able to harass him with and if he did it was so minor that we had to dig deep for it. I now cannot even remember what it could have been. Everyone else had 2 or 3 imperfections that became the target during the sibling beat downs.
I always wanted to be as cool and easy going as Steven. Things seemed to come easy for him. Where he lived out loud in so many ways, I lived on mute. Kept my head down, stayed focused, I had to be the best kid in the world where Steven had to have the most fun in the world. Even now he’s the life of the party and I enjoy his intelligent observations and raw honest humor.
I always thought it was funny that with every letter I received from him, he would sign it with some variation of “From Your Brother, Steven”. Looking back at it now, it comes across even funnier, like I needed a reminder of which Steven it was that was in the Army in Germany sending me letters. I knew then like I know now that there was a proud possessiveness we had for each other. To each other, we kids would refer to our parents as “My Mom” or “My Dad”. We’d say things like, “Steven, My Mom said come in and do the dishes!” and all our friends would wonder if one or the other of us was adopted.
I have no idea where this possessiveness came from but I am glad that My Brother Steven made it to 58 and that My Mom and My Dad somehow created a family that fought their way to loving each other for life.
I look forward to the day that Steven and I get to hang out, just the two of us. Until then I will get to know him a little bit more with each phone call.
If you're reading this, Happy Birthday Steven!
Your Brother Jerry.