Saturday, October 24, 2009

Big Brother

Family is funny. I love that old joke, "God gives you friends to make up for your family." I happen to have a pretty awesome family. Mom and Dad were damned good parents, and now that I'm an adult, they've become two of my best friends.

I don't blog about Aaron a lot. Some of you who don't know me well might be surprised to find that I have a brother at all. It's not like he is some crazy we hide in the closet and only take out at Christmas. Aaron is just his own person, with his own life.

Aaron is seven years older than me. Due to circumstances out of her control, Mom had a very long wait between us, so it was never going to be easy for us to be close. But in my young years, we had some good times, nonetheless. It was "Air-wa" who introduced me to the joys of Legos, skateboards and, most importantly, Snoopy. He collected Peanuts comic books, and becasue I idolized him, I soon became quite the little Snoopy fan myself. This, obviously, has lasted.

What we lacked in common hobbies, we made up for in creative games. A particular favorite was "Cross." This was played first in the above-ground pool at our Rancho Cordova home, and later in our fancier in-ground pool in Folsom. The whole point of the game was to start at opposite sides of the pool and cross over or under each other without bumping. It was best played with a third person, so you could have some on the top, someone in the middle, someone at the bottom. Before going underwater, we'd all yell where we intended to swim, take a deep gulp of air, and then push off from the wall with our feet, emerging triumphantly at the other side of the pool.

It sounds so...boring. And yet we spent hours playing "Cross." Sometimes I rather think that if given the chance, I'd glady while away a lazy summer afternoon playing this silly game with Aaron, if only to keep those fond memories fresh in my mind.

When people ask about my brother, I find myself challenged to explain him. "Aaron is...Aaron..." I usually reply, rather weakly. And indeed, he is. Aaron, like anyone else on this big blue planet, is a combination of good, bad, love, issues, and mysteries. The fact that he is a mystery to me more often than not makes me sad.

Being so far apart in age, there was bound to be a time when my life and interests took a drastic turn from Aaron's. It was also inevitable because while we have the same parents, we are about as opposite as two siblings can be, in looks and personality.

Aaron is tall--a little over six feet--with dark hair and blue-grey eyes. He has the somewhat large, masculine nose of our father, but Mom's coloring. Then you have me: 5'2", and very nearly a carbon copy of my dad (except for the nose).

And our interests? Aside from a mutual love of the band Chicago, the old show "Mama's Family," and cats, there's not a whole hell of a lot of common ground for Aaron and I. Most of our conversations these days revolve around our cats (he has six or seven--I've lost count--and I, obviously, have the two), family memories, and how his kids are doing. We avoid politics, religion and education. Especially education.

Aaron didn't finish college. He has always struggled with a learning disability, and also a stubborn streak the size of the Grand Canyon (in that respect, perhaps we are more alike that it seems). He didn't get the help he needed at school, and eventually left to join the workforce. He's tried again a few times since, but never finished his degree. It's caused some discord.

I earned my degree in 2001, a week after Aaron married his wife. Things were said at the time--it doesn't really need to be rehashed, but suffice it to say that there were harsh words from him and tears from me. It was hard for me to hear my brother be so rude, so mean--partly because it hurt me, and partly because I knew it tore him up inside to see his "kid" sister graduate from college before him.

We got through it. I know he is, in his way, proud of me. He doesn't say it; I don't need to hear it from him. He's a good man, living with his wife and kids in Idaho. Sometimes I think it's best that they live in another state. He and I are so different.

It's easy to let time go by and suddenly realize that I haven't spoken to him in months. But somehow, we never miss each others' birthdays, and the major holidays. We have our lives--so different, so busy, and yet, tied together because we are the only two children of Doug and Sue Cooper.

There have been times I've been so frustrated by Aaron. Why can't he be less stubborn? Oh my God, did he really just make that remark? Jesus, just once I'd like to go out to dinner with him and not hear him make a snotty remark about the service or something! Damn, Aaron, it's MY birthday, and I want Mexican food. Quitcherbitchin!

And just when I think, "That's it! I'm declaring myself an only child!" I remember the boy who put up with an annoying, hero-worshiping little sister. The one who spent his allowance to buy me the My Little Pony nursery. He didn't have to help Mom and Dad maintain the Santa myth for so long, or share his Legos, or read to me. He changed my diapers when I was a baby--that ought to count for something right?

But most of all, I can't escape the simplest fact of all--despite our differences, despite the frustrations of getting along we sometimes face--I love him.

He ain't heavy--he's my brother.

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