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I don’t know what my life would have been like if I didn’t have my brother in it. I seriously can’t imagine it. Life is so weird and funny and hard and when you really try and think about how certain events or occurrences might turned out differently, well, you’re only playing with history, I guess. Because what’s done is done, right?
But every now and then I try to picture who I might have turned out to be had my younger brother, Dave, never been born; if he was born to some other family or born as a baby raccoon or something. But it’s impossible to wrap my head around it.
There’s just been way too much Dave in my life to envision a world without him.
I’m 2-and-a-half-years older than my little brother but our age difference has never come in to play. We’ve always been the same age even if we’re not. I think we were lucky that way; our mom had us close enough together that the meager head start I got at life has never amounted to much of anything. We probably should have just been born twins — that’s how tight our brotherly run has been.
I’ve got three kids now, a 5-year-old daughter, Violet, and two sons, Henry, 3, and Charlie, 6 months. Just like any parent, I spend an awful lot of my time daydreaming about what their futures hold for them. I imagine who they’ll become and where they’ll travel to. I ponder what sorts of people they’ll each fall in love with, and what sorts of occupations they’ll end up in. They’re a close-knit bunch, my kids are. They’re constantly together, playing or fighting or napping practically on top of one another.
Watching Henry begin to bond with his baby bro has started to steal my heart in mind-blowing ways lately. He’ll wander over to Charlie sitting there in his Bumbo or rolling around on the floor and he’ll lean in to the little guy and blow a big farty kiss on his baby belly and Charlie cracks up laughing. That’s when it really slams into me, the magical fact that I’ve got two brothers as sons now. It wasn’t something I had ever dreamed of or imagined. It wasn’t something I could possibly plan. It just happened, with luck, with fortune.
When we were little kids growing up in the suburbs of Philly, Dave and I spent our days in this kind of inseparable cocoon of traveling chaos. We played baseball in the vacant lot down the street, we chased lightning bugs in the alley next to our house, and we sat on the same tattered couch, night after night after night, our tired eyes open only because there was no way in hell we were going to miss Miami Vice when it came on in an hour. We slept in bunk beds (him up top, me on the bottom) and at the end of our long days, we’d often lay there in the dark of our room talking to each other about playing guitar or what we were going to do when we finally made it to the Jersey shore the following summer.
You don’t hold back when you’re young and close in age and you’re brothers. I love that so much. It’s almost as if you attack the other guy with every fleeting thought that passes through your goofy head, breathing the same air under the same roofs and treetops, a kingdom where secrets are non-existent and dreams are better when you share ’em. Brothers who grow up together and hang out together and are best friends even though they punch each other and pull each others’ hair and all, they end up with their souls stapled together. Their two identities, their four eyes and two hearts, all that stuff ends up just fueling the exact same world, I guess.
Dave and me, we looked out on the same streets, often thinking the same things, down the years and then down the decades, and when the school bus lights used to finally come around the far corner in the cold dark of some winter’s morning, we used to stand there shivering our asses off, clutching our book bags, watching our ride pull up to us with separate but equal eyes.
It’s hard to explain in a way, I guess, but even so … seeing my two sons hanging out on the same living room floor in front of me, it has changed me as a man and as a father. I feel more confident, I think. I feel more sure of myself and more certain that these dudes are going to be okay. Somehow, no matter what sadness and blues come their way (and it’ll happen) they’re going to be okay. Because they’ve got each other now, from here on out.
And judging by what I have with my brother, judging by the high bar we set for ourselves and for other brothers after years of touring the world in a rock band together and living in the same cities as each other, judging by the fact that despite all the hurt and struggle we have been through as young men and then as men who aren’t so young anymore, the two of us still have this way of being across a table from each other and being able to say it all with just the slightest grin or the near invisible twitch of an eyebrow.
I don’t know what the word is for that. Brotherhood isn’t good enough. It’s good, but not good enough.
Probably, there isn’t a word for the bond that we have. Probably, there isn’t ever going to be one either.
But, for me anyways, if there were a couple of words to ever come close to capturing the essence of what my brother and me accomplished together, of what with our lifetimes of interchangeable dreams and work and love have ended up meaning to the greater good of this vast crazy galaxy of ours, it would probably be the only two words that I can possibly imagine hanging from the side of such a high wall.
Those are the words I come up with. That’s where all of this brother thing has been leading to since the day Dave was born, 40 years ago, and my mom brought him home so I could do fart kisses on his newborn head, just wanting to make him laugh more than anything in the world, man.