At a loss for what to write about today, I opened a photo album to a random page, scanned it, and planned to write about it. The page I opened had six pictures on it. I chose this one for a variety of reasons: 1) it was the “youngest” of the photos on the page, 2) I don’t look hideous, and 3) it accurately depicts life before digital photography, when you had to shoot a whole roll of film and get it developed to see whether the picture was centered or not.
The photo is dated November 1965, but I think it was taken earlier in the year. Both our noses are sunburned and my arms are tan, so it may have been the end of summer. If so, my brother was heading off to his sophomore year at Dartmouth.
My brother was a star in our little town. Attractive, smart (salutatorian of his class), athletic (football, basketball and track star), musical (lead trombonist for the high school band), and popular, he was damn near perfect. I idolized and adored him.
He would often have a bunch of his friends, the cream of the high school crop, over for penny-ante poker. It would have been a prime opportunity to practice my flirting skills—but I didn’t have any. I was horribly shy and timid, totally lacking any form of self-confidence, so I avoided them.
Eventually my brother served as a pilot in the Air Force; married an intelligent, talented, confident woman; and had three wonderful children. His life wasn’t without trauma, though. His wife divorced him about the same time he lost a job. She later died from breast cancer at the age of 43, leaving his children to raise themselves.
Over the years, he and I have had a rocky relationship. I say it’s because we’re so different. He says it’s because we’re so similar.
He’s not on my list of Seven People I’m Proud to Call Relatives. Although he’s charming, witty, and funny—and I loved him—we’re estranged. His kids, however, are terrific. I’m not as big a part of their lives as I’d like to be, but I do love them. I hope they feel the same.
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