Today is my older brother's birthday. I have two brothers. John is nine years older than I am and Alan is 364 days younger. The difference in ages always seemed to make for some interesting sibling relationships. I think John particularly hated Alan and me when were were 6 and 7 and he was 16. It's hard to be cool around your girlfriend when you little brother and sister keep bugging you.
I spent a good part of my childhood in Texas. I remember a nice neighborhood with kids to play with, and nice fenced in backyard and a playground just down the street. Alan and I were latch-key kids in those days. We walked to and from school together by ourselves and let ourselves into the playroom above the garage after-school. Maybe John was supposed to babysit us, I don't really remember. He largely ignored us, probably because we enjoyed annoying him so much.
I remember once that Alan and I were at the playground down the street playing one afternoon. Some other older kids came over and started hassling Alan. He was scared and I didn't really know what to do. So I ran home and got John. John followed me back to the playground and said something along the lines of, "You guys better keep away from my brother! If I hear about you messing with him again I will pound you so far into the ground only your head will be sticking out. The only one who gets to beat up these two is me!!" I remember feeling strangely safe and terrified at the same time!
John was also the one who convinced us that cat food made you extra smart. We had a few cats at the time and used to buy the big 50 pound bags of dry cat food and keep them in a trash can in the garage. Alan and I used to go out and sneak a few handfuls every once in a while. Just the smell of dry cat food is nauseating to me now, but I used to eat it regularly!! And I think I'm pretty smart, but please do not try this at home.
Another one of John's favorite big brother stories is how he convinced Alan that really smart people have 3 or 4 brains, but that Alan only had two. Alan went crying to our parents all upset and said, "John says I only have two brains!" And of course my parents replied, "Don't be silly, Alan. You only have one brain." Which just made him cry all the louder.
When we moved from Texas to Virginia John had just graduated from high school. We dropped him off at a college in Oklahoma on our way, so he didn't come to Virginia with us. In fact, may of the friends I had in Radford never knew I had an older brother. John eventually made it to Virginia and after transferring around a bit he ended up at JMU. We came to visit him pretty often because he was so close. I got to know the campus quite well. When it was time for me to start visiting colleges, JMU always seemed home-y to me because I had been here so often. John having come here was a major factor in my selection of this school.
While I was in college, John was living in Northern Virginia. Once I gave up the notion that my calling in life was to annoy the snot out of him, we actually because very good friends. We went to concerts together. He visited me at JMU. He let me and my friends crash at his place whenever we had NOVA things to do. He took a trip to Las Vegas once and sent me back a cup of quarters for the washing machines. The post office gave me a funny look when I picked up this heavy, rattly package from them!
John also visited me at JMU. In fact, he came here to go to a concert on campus and met his future wife. I can take credit for that, right? Once he even drove me and some college friends to Radford for the weekend and put up with a car full of girls for two hours!
Life gets busy and people change, but John and I continue to be close. He is a great brother, a terrific brother and a wonderful friend. I honored to be able to wish him a very happy birthday today!