We were getting ready to go for a walk yesterday in my parent’s neighborhood. Time for a break. When from down the street a figure appeared walking straight for my parent’s house. Much speculation about who it could be … it was my brother, Todd. He’d had meetings in Los Angeles and decided to pop in on his way home to Maine. He came to see my Dad. Maybe for the final time. I was so happy he was here.
We haven’t seen each other in a while. Since my grandmother died a few years ago. It’s always interesting when he and I are in the same room. As kids we had a ‘Love/Hate’ relationship. I loved him and he hated me. That might be a little extreme but since I was born 2 years after him, he felt he was dethroned. Although he was always perfectly dressed like he was attending Wimbledon or Royal Ascot, while I was covered in mud with twigs coming out of my pig tails. He’d make me walk far behind him when my Mom made him take me somewhere.
That didn’t stop me from chasing him around and following he and his friends. But he knew I could be useful too. I was his personal crash test dummy. Any time they built a ramp to jump their bikes – I tested it for them in advance. I would be summoned, if I wasn’t already lurking. I mean, they wouldn’t want to get hurt or anything. Often it wasn’t well built and after I would crash and skin up my knees and elbows he’s step over me and gather his friends together to strategize about how they might redesign it. Of course, so I could test it for them, again.
‘Should I wear the football helmet?’ I would ask him – knowing that hitting my head was a real possibility.
‘Nah – you’re tougher than that.’ he’d tell me. ‘And besides, I don’t want it to get scratched.’
I took pride in my fearlessness and battle scars. Any tears would be saved for later, out of his view.
Emilie loves his stories and there are so many. And he loves to tell them. Stories I forget until he comes to town.
I always had money as a kid. I saved everything I ever got from birthdays, lemonade stand sales. Selling homemade (they’d call them bespoke today) potholders and bouquets of dandelions door to door. I was an earner. Todd was not as industrious back then, but often took on a management role – taking his cut, which I gladly handed over if he would smile at me for just a moment.
One day, he and his friend, Jeffy, asked me if I wanted a burrito from the local Taco Time up by the Big Dollar Shopping Center. I said yes and he said he’d be happy to get me a burrito, but alas, he had no money. Could I front him some cash? I ran up to my sock drawer and came back with enough to cover us all.
Todd and Jeffy rode their bikes and were gone a long time. They came back and went on and on about how good this burrito they got me was going to be. I bit into it and large chunks of meat came out. Looking over they were rolling on the floor. Finally, they admitted that they had made a side trip to the store to purchase some Alpo dog food and they laid out the burrito on the sidewalk and filled it with the dog food. They thought it was hilarious.
I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. I ate that entire burrito. Apparently, I freaked him out because I said how amazing it tasted. I remember thinking ‘I’ll show you how tough I am.’ I was 8 years old. And it’s why I was the perfect person to taste that first nasty batch of brown maple flavored Big League Chew in my Mom’s kitchen. Yuck!
Todd spent the day with us yesterday, making us laugh and since his flight to NY was cancelled he was back again today. It was good to see him and reminisce. Emilie likes hearing that I was an annoying little sister, just like her.
But the best part was today when my Mom and I left him alone in the house. He got a few hours with my Dad one-on-one. Just the two of them talking. After the car service picked him up and we waved goodbye, I came back inside and my Dad was crying. They got to have conversations they’d never had before. Things that needed to be said and acknowledged. It was good.
‘I wish I’d been a better Father.’ he told me. And I know why he said that.
‘Regret are pointless. We can’t go back and change it.’ I told him. ‘Its time to let it all go. It’s time for all of us to do that.’
But I know how hard it is. And I know it was hard for my brother today. But I’m so glad he came. Its not the crashes and dog-food burritos that matter. Because no matter how much water has passed under that bridge, we’re family. Time and distance won’t change that. And I’m so grateful.