There is perhaps no one in this world who currently knows me better than my wife. We share a home, a family and most of our day-to-day experiences together. For better or for worse, she knows all of my habits, history, plans, hopes and dreams. She tolerates the little nuances that make me unique and I, in turn, do my best to keep them at bay; though I can’t promise that I won’t forever find new ways to organize the kitchen, only to get annoyed with her for not reading my mind on how it has been further optimized for the best cooking experience. She is patient, kind, understanding, makes me feel like I’m the funniest person in the room, and knows how to challenge me in constructive, positive ways. We have built a history of amazing stories together, but there is someone else in my life that I shared stories with before Alison and I met, and for anyone else who has a sibling in their lives, you know how much a sister, or in my case, a brother, understands what brought you to today better than anyone else.
As I’ve shared before, we grew up in Milton, back when it was a town of ~35,000 people. Our home was in a residential neighbourhood that backed onto farmer’s fields and nothing else. Thinking back on it now, I appreciate the town even more for everything it was; quiet, friendly and familiar. It was also an amazing stomping ground for two young boys to play, explore, and get into general mischief.
I still have pictures of my brother holding me as a baby, and while I don’t directly remember that specific moment in time, the photos do stir up a feeling in me that reminds me he has always been in my life, and that he has always been there for me. He taught me how to climb a fence, and he was the best man at our wedding; suffice to say he has been a staple throughout my time on this planet, and without him I don’t know that I ever would have picked up the guitar, found the joy in escargot, or collected enough courage to jump off the roof to sneak out in the middle of the night. This isn’t to suggest that he didn’t also torment me, especially in the younger years, when I can only assume I was perhaps more annoying than pleasant to be around. I’ve recounted the tale many times of him locking me in the dog cage, placing a metal bowl with a battery in it on top, and warning me that if I touched the sides I would be electrocuted. It took me an hour to build up the courage to finally lift the latch. Just one of many lessons I learned from my older and wiser kin.
The memories are plenty – slurping French onion soup at The Muddy Duck, gorging on fresh blackberries during one of our many adventures through the escapement, biking through Earl Rowe campground to the tuck shop for silver bullet candy, sneaking downstairs after midnight to play Uncharted Waters on the Nintendo, I have many fond and dear memories of that house, that town and our time together. I learned from him that there are multiple forms of music, from The Eurythmics to Rage Against the Machine. Through him I discovered how to challenge myself – riding through the sand dunes, falling hard and collecting scrapes, cuts, and bruises, only to get back up and try the run again. He introduced me to Escher, Tolkien and Garfield and he challenged me to flex my creative side with random drawing and writing assignments…which I do know were either an act of me doing his homework or a tactic used to get rid of me for half an hour or so; either way, they were no less impactful on shaping who I am.
Along with all of the memories, I will never forget the day I ‘graduated’ from tee-ball to fast-pitch; the final game of the tee-ball season had finished and my brother was waiting for me as the players and parents headed back to their cars in the Rockwell parking lot. There was an excitement in him that was obviously big enough for me to remember so many years later, as he explained that he would help me learn to pitch and hit against the fast before the next season. That level of excitement and encouragement fuelled me throughout my entire baseball career. My brother appeared proud of me. He wanted to teach me, and spend time together doing something he also loved so dearly. I don’t know if he remembers that day, I certainly wouldn’t expect him to; but it has always stuck with me.
I was reminded of this feeling three nights ago, when Audrey began her first soccer practice. She had been counting down the days for over a month and her excitement could not be contained. She had her uniform, her cleats, shin pads and a ball; she was ready for action! Watching her take to the field with confidence and joy was quite a sight, but what really caught my eye was how proud her sister was to watch from the sidelines. More than anything, Nora wanted to cheer and encourage her little sister as she weaved her way down the pitch. It was not something I necessarily expected to see but when practice was over and Nora went running up to give her sister a huge hug and let her know how amazing she did, I was immediately reminded of the story I just told you from my own childhood. She was proud and wanted her sister to know it.
Every day I watch these two young ladies interact with one another in continuously evolving ways. From the early years of Nora teaching Audrey how to climb over the bars of her crib, to just this very morning, when they woke up extra early (yay) and hurried to jump together on the trampoline in celebration of the weekend. Just as my brother and I did so many moons ago, they find their own fun and genuinely enjoy being in each other’s life. They are, without a doubt, individuals with unique likes, dislikes, abilities and expressions, and are capable of operating independently from the other, but they are still always thinking of and considering how their sister may doing in that moment; the same way I’m thinking about my older brother today. We may not take to the trampoline, but we definitely still enjoy tossing the ball around now and again.
Not everyone has a brother or sister in their lives, but I am placing my faith in the hope that everyone has someone who fits the profile I’m describing. Someone who has been a part of your life longer than anyone, and can comment on moments that took place long before any social media platform. I am proud to say that my brother and I are still connected, though I have grown wise enough to resist voluntarily entering any animal carriers. In our adult years we opened a business together, travelled through Tibet and played on a frisbee team. We’ve watched our children grow and learn from one another, and he continues to teach me ways to expand my understanding of the world in which we live.
It’s funny how we go through life assuming that others know how we feel toward them. That words need not be spoken and that my experience surely must have matched theirs, so there’s no need for commentary. It’s kind of a sad way to go about things, in my opinion. I genuinely believe that my brother doesn’t remember that particular day on the ball diamond, which is completely understandable, but I want him to know that, from as far back as I can remember up to this very moment, I have been positively impacted by the person he is. So on the note of the things we don’t say to one another, at least not often enough, today seems like a good day to pick up the phone, shoot out a text message, or write a blog post to say: “Brother, thank you, and I love you.”