Monday, June 11, 2012

Big Brother

I was four and Bully was eight.For once he wasn't teasing me.

Since his oldest daughter, Amy, was a recent visitor, I have been thinking about my older brother Bill. He left us about nine years ago, out in Montana, the place he and Eileen returned to after he retired from Mercy Hospital in Springfield. He had started his first practice out in Montana in the early fifties, later settling in Springfield after he switched to cardiology in the seventies. I don’t think he had ever felt at home in Ohio and the big blues skies of Montana suited him.

He was the very model of a big brother to me, even though he could be a terrible tease, convincing me at five that I was adopted and that my real name was Anne Hopkins. He would periodically reinforce this, sending me howling to my mother. His insistence was stronger than my mother’s reassurance that I was truly her biological offspring.

He was smart, funny and thought up great games, especially when our parents left him in charge of us so they could go out and relax at the movies or a bridge game with friends. Furniture and artifacts suffered from some of our more exciting antics. We always managed to arrange the damaged pieces so they looked mostly normal when our parents got home. They had a wonderful, high antique spool bed. One night, somehow one of the mattress supporting slats broke. Billy rigged it up so it looked just fine. And it was, until our very pregnant mother climbed aboard. The resulting crash roused us all from our innocent sleep. Little brother Ed could have been born on the bedroom floor, but fortunately held off for another month or so.

He discovered where they hid the Christmas presents in the large central hallway which was full of cupboards. He knew I didn’t want to know ahead of time and would threaten to tell me. I just put my hands over my ears because I liked surprises. In that same hallway, he managed to talk our father into letting him have a large closet for his “office.”  He provided a desk and Billy provided himself with a telephone he had probably scrounged from someone’s trash pile. He connected it illegally, of course, with out line. This was a sacred spot and we were forbidden to enter. My sister was just as smart as he was and a lot braver than I.  She had not problem defying his authority and breaking into this office whenever she had a chance. She found a treasure map in his desk and decoded it. I don’t remember if we actually hunted it down, but I was duly impressed with her skill as a spy. They had some epic battles as children, while I watched, admiring them both.

He loved to build things and invent things. He had this book full of fun things to make out of ordinary household objects and the nosier the better. I was fascinated by papier mache puppets he and a friend made for a Punch and Judy show they would put on. (I found a copy of that book and Polly and I made the same puppets many years later.)

He had a collection of lizards, chameleons and skinks, for which he and our father made wooden cages. We all caught flies to feed them, watching their tongues flick out and pull the live flies in.

He made our childhood fun and exciting.  I have no doubt that he did the same for his children.

He had the qualities I hoped to find in a husband: intelligence and humor. And I did.


Janet said...

Lovely tribute, Guenveur!


Unknown said...

You never told me about the skinks! Wonderful, vivid story of you all, still fascinating me after all these years.

Expat Hausfrau said...

Now you need to write a sequel piece to this about Nancy Adam's mother bringing those childhood photos of you all to Kent...please! It's such a great story!