|Egg, Deb, and Deb's dad, Jim|
He is my baby brother and to this six-year-old girl, he became my living doll. He was a precious toddler––all boy, as they say. He used to walk around with nothing but a dirty face and a diaper filled with Matchbox and Dinky toys. He would walk, squat, pull the little cars out of his diaper and start playing instantly. The owners of the cars would always always have the same names. Bill, Frank, Joe. “Hey, Joe, I like your car. Thanks, Frank. Here comes Bill. Hi, Bill. Hi, Joe. Hi, Frank.” After this scintillating exchange, and some good car crashes, he would pick up the cars and imaginary guys, stuff them in his diaper and he was on his way to scout another location. Precious. Cutest little thing in the world he was.
And I loved him. Adored him really.
But as with all good things, that love came with control. He was my little puppet and I was his loving but demanding puppet master. And yet, he loved it! Translation––he was too young to know what I was doing.
So we played our games. Every day. Little tiger, little lion. I was the owner of the animal and he was the tiger or lion, depending on his master’s whim. I tied a scarf around his neck and attached it to a rope and lead him around calling out instructions. “Time to eat, little lion, time to drink, little tiger, time to jump off the chesterfield, little lion, time to leap through the hoola hoop, little tiger.” And we played for hours.
I like to think I had something to do with developing his imagination, but I am sure I didn’t. The Egg was born with a vivid imagination. I remember hearing him on the landing at the top of the stairs playing with the hockey guys he had cut out of the newspaper. He assumed all roles in that game from the trumpet playing “Oh Canada” to the roar of the crowd to the comments from the coaches. He would play for hours on end and it is one of my favourtite memories.
He is creative, he is an artist, he is athletic. And all through his adult life, he has had ideas. If just one of his creative ideas had come to fruition, he would have been a billionaire. But they didn’t and he didn’t. He has a good solid job which pays him well and which he enjoys to a degree. But it was not what he envisioned for himself at all. In the meantime, he became something I never would have suspected of him. He became a devoted, loving and selfless Dad. After the party decades, I never thought I’d see the day.
I know that he had big dreams and I know he has struggled with them not coming true.
But as I watch him today I think, “Isn’t it funny how we never dream the small things––as if success in these things is not really success in life.” We never dream of being great parents who work hard to give our kids something we never had. We don’t dream of how satisfying that will be and how great the rewards. We dream of being rich or famous or hugely successful in our chosen field and we are right to dream those dreams.
But I look at my brother today, healthy, married to a loving wife, with two gorgeous kids, and I see his riches. I have such admiration for him and his devotion to his good life. I watch him become the loveliest parts of my Dad and I thank God because I know I will always have my Dad in him. But mostly I am a fan. He would never know this because in our society we tend to judge each other by what we do for a living and how glamourous it is and so he would never suspect my deep admiration. I wish it weren’t so. I wish we judged each other solely on our hearts and wits and empathy. But we don’t. Even if we mean to, we don’t. I love my brother. If his heart was measured in gold, he wouldn’t be able to stand.
To view my cute as a button brother and his loving but bossy sister, enjoy these old super 8 snippets. My bossiness knows no bounds!!! How we laugh at these in our family!
Barbara: Oh, Deb, are these ever precious!!! I have no super-8 video of my childhood, but I do remember how much we all enjoyed a good family slide show.
Yup, I was the bossy one too, as my sisters will attest (although they have claimed they liked it—not the “bossy” part so much, but the time we shared together and the love they knew I felt for them). I was forever commanding performances and directing them and making them my babies (or the Dads, because, you know, I had to be the Mom.)
But I think the emotional centre of your piece today is that part about your brother’s dreams not turning out quite the way he thought, and the value we place on abstract, professional accomplishments. I know I get caught up in that too. Not judging people on their triumphs so much as judging myself on my lack thereof. I think this whole notion is the crux on which midlife rotates. You got this far and suddenly wonder if it's far enough, or you're absolutely sure it's not. So now what? Well, the axis keeps rotating, and you keep turning with it. And, if you're lucky, you've got a whole slew of satellites orbiting with you, reminding you of the simple beauty of ... this.
I love when you say: “I wish we judged each other solely on our hearts and wits and empathy.” And I actually wonder if in our heart of hearts this isn’t exactly how we judge people. Because so often it’s who we touch, not how we touched them, that lasts, rippling down through generations.
Oh, my heart is just warm and glowing right now! Thanks, Deb, for a beautiful testament, but also for a loving, true and profound reminder. You, too, are worth your weight in gold, my dear. Mwah!