Editor’s Note: This is a special blog entry for my brother to wish him a happy birthday. Please bear with my indulgence.)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY BRO!
I waited 11 years for you – what took you so long?
I remember praying for you to show up. I wanted a brother so badly – not that having sisters was awful. It wasn’t. We got lucky; our sisters are cool. But I wanted someone to play games with and teach how to play baseball. I wanted someone to hang out with, someone I could listen to music with and teach how to tell which Beatle was singing the lead.
I tried doing all those things with the girls, but they didn’t seem to care much about any of them. That’s why I needed you. I knew you would care as much as I did. The girls would just have to come around eventually – and they did. Now our family is perfect.
I remember the morning that Grandma told me I had a brother as clearly as if it were yesterday. I could say that I was excited, but that doesn’t do justice to the way I felt. Euphoric comes closer, but still falls short.
I was so excited that I wanted to stay home from school and wait for you to show up. Nobody bought that story, so off to school I went with a head crammed tight with thoughts of all the fun we were going to have. In fact, my head was so clouded with dreams of you that I misspelled “throat” on my spelling test, and I blew my perfect grade for the year. Yes, I blamed you. You owe me one. Why did you decide to enter the world on the same day I had a test? How was I supposed to focus?
That was the first in a series of disappointments I suffered because of you. The second came a few days later when you came home from the hospital.
I had spent several restless nights, my mind too busy planning your welcome to get any sleep. I sat by the front door with two baseball gloves and the shiniest baseball I had, waiting for you. Then Mom walked in with a tiny bundle in a blue blanket.
“What’s that?” I asked. “Where’s my brother?”
“This is your brother,” Mom explained.
“That? That’s a baby! What am I supposed to do with a baby?”
Playing catch would have to wait.
But good news: you grew – and fast! Sure, you were kind of a blob until you could walk, but after that, you were the best! You followed me everywhere and did everything I told you to do, including sneaking me extra cookies when Mom wasn’t looking.
And, boy, were you a good listener. You loved the stories I made up for you. You loved my dumb jokes and riddles, and you loved everything about baseball, even the stories I made up where I stretched the truth a tiny bit. Okay, I will admit it now: Mickey Mantle didn’t actually hit a ball so hard that it hit an airplane in the sky – but it was close.
A little later, when I got my first camera, you were my model. I took pictures of you on your swing set, in your kiddie pool, and playing with your toys in our living room with no furniture (also known as our “sports arena,” which would host many an indoor hockey game to the dismay of the wall – and Dad.) Mom didn’t care much for those pictures because you always seemed to have slobber on your shirt, but you looked fine to me.
You really had a lot of patience with me as my hobbies grew and you became my guinea pig. When I got my first tape recorder, you let me record you, though you never knew what to say. When I got my first guitar, you listened to every note as if I knew what I was doing. And, boy did we bond over baseball!
Now that I think of it, it was probably a good thing you were too young to realize how bad the Yankees were those years until Thurman Munson showed up. But it’s too bad you never got to see Mickey Mantle play. You would have loved him – like I did.
I feel lucky that we shared so much over the years – especially baseball. Now when I watch a game, I feel like you are right by my side again, instead of far away in another country. It feels like you never left, and I like that.
So, for your birthday, I got you something special: we’re going to play Sports Illustrated Baseball, and I’ll let you be the Yankees. But look out – I’m going to be the Giants, and Christy Mathewson is pitching – and you know how well I roll his automatic outs!
Look out, Bro!
Yeah, I waited a long time for you to show up – and it was worth the wait.
Happy Birthday, Baby Bro!