Friday, January 18, 2008

Big Brother is Watching You

Hopefully you’ll indulge my familial ramblings one more time. I feel the need to give my big brother Mike some airplay.

Mike is nearly nine years older than I am. As a kid, I was in absolute awe of him. His years over me made him seem ultimately wise. I remember bragging to my peers, “My big brother is in high school!” The Mike I knew was quiet and bookish, although I’m certain he got into his share of teen trouble. I didn’t really get to know him well back then because by the time I could hold a halfway decent conversation, he had already left for college, and then the air force.

In fact, I never really felt that I got to know him until John met him. Of my three brothers, a friendship with Mike was the last bond I would have expected. I’m not entirely sure why - guess that just shows that I didn’t know my brother very well. Because he and John got on famously. Both highly intelligent, they conversed easily about many things. Mike’s quiet, dry wit very well complimented John’s over the top, irreverent brand of humor. They were both chess players (although early on, it was clear that Mike was the far better opponent), and built their friendship largely through playing online chess matches together. As John would head into the computer room, he’d say, “Well, let’s see how your brother is decimating me today.” Not long after, it would be followed with him hollering, “Barbarienne! Your brother is a Sneaky Rat Bastard!” It pleased me to no end to see the relationship blossom.

So you see, in a way, I got to know my brother because of John. Just another gift in a pile of many.

Interesting little story… I’ve always thought that Mike was the smartest of the five of us. He just plain knows a lot of stuff. He’s always studying something and he retains things well. Often, I’ve wished I could be as smart as he is - and that’s not by way of diminishing my own intelligence any. I’ve just always perceived him as being intellectually far above me. I’m smarter than some, some are smarter than I - ain‘t no thang. Two years ago in March, I was visiting Grand Rapids. Mike, and my sis, Nancy were both at my Mom’s house and we were looking through old pictures. I don’t recall how we got on the subject, but Nancy made the comment that Mike was always so smart. Mike very matter of factly said, “I always thought Barb was the most intelligent one in the family.” I was floored. I looked at him to be sure he wasn’t joking, knowing full well that he wasn’t. I stammered, “Really? Wh..what… Uh… but you’re so smart and you know so much!” Mike said, “Yeah, because I study and I retain things. For you it just comes naturally. You’ve never had to work as hard at it.” It was a defining moment for me. I think it was the beginning of me realizing that there was more to me (more that others saw), a deeper well, perhaps, than I suspected or saw in myself. I mean, if Mike thought that, and I’d already acknowledged that he was smart… Well!

It wasn’t long after that when Mike took early retirement, sold his home and moved to the Dominican Republic. He spends his days walking on the beach, drinking cheap cervesas, and occasionally indulging his pathetically unskilled and unmatched little sister in an online chess game. In any pictures he sends, he looks healthy and happy and I’m so proud of him. I’m thrilled for him that he’s enjoying his dream while he’s still young and hale enough to do so. I emailed him just before Christmas and asked, “So what do people in DR for the holiday? Have an extra shot of tequila, dance around a palm tree, and sing, Dahoo Doray?” He replied, “Heck, that’s pretty much every day here!”

You can bet that DR is on my Gypsy List.


  1. I've heard wonderful things about the DR-- I'm so on board for planning a gypsy caravan out that way!!!

    Let me know when to pack my string bikini & I'll be there with bells and tassels ;-D

  2. Baby, you pack your string bikini, and you're on your own. I still have a standard or two left, y'know...?


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