by Ron Gavalik on June 25th, 2014

In late June of 1985, my father sat in the living room chair at my grandparent’s house and asked me to step closer. Black circles outlined the bottoms of both eyes and his clothes were more than a little disheveled. He would’ve appeared unwell, had it not been for the cheesy grin and the nervous excitement that exuded from every pore, a weird vibe that's usually contained within cocaine addicts.

"I want to tell you something," the middle-aged union railroader said. "You have a new brother."
At the ripe age of 12, teetering on the brink of what would become teenage madness, my stomach churned in simple disgust. "Brother?" I said. "Really? Isn’t that just a waste of time when we could be having fun?”
My father laughed at the predictable childish response, but was not impressed. The man was one of the poorest communicators to ever inhabit the Earth. He didn’t do drama. He never discussed important matters. He didn’t even bother to tell me he was entering a civil union with his second wife until two hours before the ceremony.
In other words, Dad would’ve made a horrible politician.
On that day, however, he took a few minutes to have a real conversation and he reassured me of a few important matters. “You’ll always be the first son,” he said in a matter of fact tone. “God made another boy for us.” He then patted me on the back and his eyes showed creeping emotion, a happiness I'd never seen in him.
I somehow knew in that moment that my brother’s birth wasn’t something to be taken lightly and was actually a time of joy.
The two of us then jumped in the car for the hospital, which was about a 30-minute drive.
"What's his name going to be," I asked.
"John. John Albert."
"Ah, your middle name and grandpap’s first name."
Dad laughed a little, almost embarrassed. “Yeah.”
(I was too young to say, 'Ego much?')
When we arrived at the hospital, I saw the ginormous infant in a blue one-piece baby smock, lying on his mother’s chest. He looked at me and lifted his head in what appeared to be wide-eyed shock.
"See, he's already lifting his head," dad said. “That never happens.”
A year later, the family held the traditional one-year birthday bash for the baby. Now fully engulfed in the throes of raging piss and vinegar that comes with the teenage years, I grudglingly helped dad and a neighbor haul picnic table kits to the backyard. We then filled barrels with ice and cans of beer and pop.

Setting up was actually a good time. We shared a lot of laughs and general teasing, mostly about dad’s inability to assemble anything that comes with instructions. But we did get everything successfully constructed.

As drips and drabs of party guests arrived, some cousin or uncle or nephew of dad’s in-laws pulled me aside in the backyard. I didn’t know the guy, but I suppose he wanted to form a relationship. To this day, I can’t remember the dude’s name or his face. I can only remember the short exchange.
“Do you like being a big brother?”
“Yeah,” I said, unsure of what answer to provide this stranger.
“He’s a cute baby.”
“Yeah, of course. He’s my brother.”
As I watched that chucklehead suck on a beer, it became apparent that it was my responsibility to use my God-given gifts of size, strength, and the wisdom I knew would come to me as an adult to ensure a level of protection for my only sibling. I looked the chucklehead square in the eye and asserted one truth, a position of sorts that would set the tone for the rest of my days on this planet.
“If anyone ever fucks with that kid, they will answer to me. And I mean anyone.”
The dude just kept gulping free suds. The backdoor to the house squeaked open and dad walked out onto the deck. He looked at me and smiled, obviously happy with the way the yard was set up for the party. I waved at him and then he stepped back inside.
Year one down. About 90 more to go.

Posted in The Writing Life    Tagged with Brothers, Brother Stories, amwriting, The Write Life, Personal Stories, Personal Story


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