My Little Brother


Before I could enroll as a full-time student at Humboldt State University, I had to take several Veteran’s Upward Bound courses. One of these classes was English, taught by a woman named Mrs. Sue Green.

She had the class write several papers throughout the semester.  While I don’t recall exactly what the assignment was about, I did save the story I wrote about my brother Adam and our relationship.

It has been exactly a year since he committed suicide. I remain lost — in limbo — still feeling much sorrow over his death. I had no idea at the time how important a role this writing assignment would end up being to me as I progress along the path to healing my heart.

I really miss Adam.

The  first time I saw him, he was so small. I thought he was a doll, Mom and Dad had brought home, but he moved and I knew dolls didn’t move.

In time I grew to accept the fact I wasn’t Mom and Dad’s only boy. Now I had a brother, Adam.

Also with time, I became more and more brave.

Soon I was able to gather enough courage to touch him. I found, much too my amazement, he was soft and that he made noises, loud ones.

One day Mom wanted to have a picture of me holding Adam. She placed him in my arms where I swelled with fear. This baby, my brother, intimidated me. I wasn’t sure why I was frightened and intimidated, I jus’ knew I was.

As we sat there waiting for Dad to take our picture, Adam reached up and grabbed a patch of my hair. He yanked it hard. The more I screamed, the harder he pulled. The harder he pulled, the more I screamed.

And my screams only made him laugh with delight.

I wanted to slap him. But Mom told me babies shouldn’t be hit. So I screamed some more instead. Finally Mom came to my rescue.

As the months grew into years, Adam learned to walk. He also decided to talk. His talking didn’t bother me as much as his mimicking. Anything I said, he said. Mom told me to be happy because he wanted to be like me. This calmed me for a while.

But calm is usually before the storm.

One day I came home from school with a new word, “Damn.” I said it once while playing outside. And of course, Adam repeated it. It didn’t end there either. He walked into the house and said “Damn,” in front of Mom, Dad and their guests.  Needless to say my new vocabulary word earned me a good spanking. I believed at the time Adam did it on purpose.

More years passed. I was getting taller and Adam was no longer a baby. Mom and Dad had added two more children to their Christmas list.

I was at the age where I could have friends over and to spend the night. My best friend at the time was Rob.

We had a lot in common, like fishing and hiking. We talked about girls, too. Adam always wanted to come along, but since he was younger we didn’t want him tagging along. Besides he didn’t talk about the same things we talked about.

Mom told me it wasn’t fair to Adam because he didn’t have anyone his own age to play with. I always refuted this point, saying, “Ah, Mom, do we have to?”

The answer was always an emphatic, “Yes!”

During my first year of high school Adam grew. He was no longer a little kid by the time I was Junior. He had started boxing in a local club, and on more than one occasion I found he had a pretty good right cross.

There is one thing about my brother I must point out: his tongue. He could talk up a storm. I knew this ever since he was about two-years old.

But now it was more than talk. His tongue was like a razor. He’d cut you up as fast as he could, if you left him an opening. Most of the time they were funny cuts, but when he wanted to hurt you his joking stopped. He could unleash some of the most devastating insults imaginable.

My senior year, Adam entered high school. He suffered and immediate identity crisis, as id the case with most younger siblings. He was referred to as, “Tom’s little brother.”

Everything Adam did something, I was certain to hear about it. Many times I had to defend him in a toe-to-toe scrap. Most of the time, the tanks I got were cut knuckles, bloodied opponents and a trip to the office. He knew I’d defend him if he needed it. Every time, I was there to help. After all, he was my little brother.

Soon I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. The days of my tag-along brother seemed to be at a close. This however wasn’t so.

Weekly I received mail from friends back home telling me about Adam doing this or Adam doing that. What a plague. He was constantly bragging on me and adding he was going to do things better than me. I tolerated his bragging, hoping it would stop, but it didn’t.

My enlistment ended and I came home to find Adam had changed. He wasn’t physically different, but he spoke to me about things like girls, cars, and money. He drove me crazy within days.

My little brother isn’t little anymore as he stands taller than me and is much wider in the shoulders than I’ll ever be. Adam left to discover the world and its meaning. He has joined the Army which has taken him far away from me.

No longer do I have anyone to confer with over girls, cars or money like only brothers can. We no longer can take hikes. We cannot even fight.

Somehow, through all of his obnoxious ways, I have grown to love him and perhaps even accepts some of his ways. It is now that I sit back and reflect to discover there is much truth in the old adage: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

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