The following is written by columnist Jennifer Anderson:
A few weeks ago, my Facebook newsfeed was inundated with friends honoring their brothers and sisters for National Sibling Day. Instead of posting an embarrassing photo of my little brother wearing nothing but toddler-sized cowboy boots and a grin, I decided he deserved something more. Like 900 words or so.
In the summer of 1981 my parents announced that my mom was pregnant and that I would soon have a brother or sister. I pondered the idea of a new playmate and for some reason put in a request for a brother.
Fast forward to a bright February day when my grandparents were in charge of me because my mom had a doctor appointment; I fielded a phone call on the green rotary phone in the office of the milking parlor where I had been playing. My dad was on the line letting me know my brother was here. I was so excited; my wish for a playmate had been granted! I promptly asked if he could come out to the barn to play with me. My dad chuckled on the other end of the phone and replied, “I don’t think so.” What a disappointment.
As a compromise, my grandma loaded me into the back of her blue Oldsmobile that smelled of butterscotch candy and plastic rain scarves. She drove me to the hospital so I could see my parents and meet my new brother. We arrived in a waiting room area and were greeted by my dad wearing pale blue scrubs. He was holding a small ball of rolled up blankets, encasing a squished, red-faced creature that he claimed was my brother. What a rip off. That was no playmate. I changed my mind. Little did I know, the worst was yet to come.
A few days later, my mom brought that little critter home. Ugh… He cried and everyone raced over to see what he needed; they cooed over him and gave him all sorts of attention that surely should have been given to me. My five-year reign as Only Child had sadly come to an end. People would come to visit and bring him gifts. Seriously? He couldn’t even pick his own nose, what was he going to do with presents? The visitors would beg to hold him and declare his handsomeness. This just added to my dismay, until one day, the most lovely lady on the Plateau descended upon our home. Gloria Lekkerkerker greeted me at the door like a fairy godmother. In her hand was the prettiest pink plastic Hello Kitty coin purse. For me! It softened the blow of being dethroned – a little.
As the critter grew into a drooling baby who would smile when I read or talked to him, he became a little less annoying. He grew up a little more and was finally able to fulfill his role as my playmate for a brief time. Even though I found him mildly annoying, I was fiercely loyal to my sibling (and still am). When our school bus driver upset him by tossing his pet frog out the window less than 100 yards from dropping us off, I began my career as a civil rights activist. I did not hesitate to let her know how unreasonable that was. I closed with a firm, “You will be hearing from my mom!” and stormed off the bus.
Soon after that, I became a teenager and embarked on a roller coaster of moods known to bring even the strongest parents to their knees. I instructed my brother on what to wear, say and do in my presence. I even told him how to breathe when riding in my car. (In my defense, the defroster didn’t work well and all that extra breath made it difficult to see through the windshield.) As I went on to college he became a little less annoying. He also grew a little taller than me and I could no longer overpower him physically. Then, the next best thing since Gloria Lekkerkerker came along. I turned 21 and my little brother got his drivers license. I had an instant designated driver from weeknight, post-softball partying at CJ Coasters! I only had to call on his services a handful of times, but it was nice to know he was there.
Through the years, I have learned to appreciate the many traits of my little brother that were once so irritating. His level head and cool temper are a nice balance to my emotion-driven outbursts. The generosity, kindness and compassion he offers without hesitation to those in need is humbling to watch. He displays the highest level of professionalism and dedication to his job as a firefighter. Being a devoted husband and father comes naturally to him. I could add to this list with another 300 words or so, but I don’t want him to become arrogant. I am proud to claim him as my brother (unlike earlier years). That fierce loyalty I felt toward him has grown exponentially over time and extends to his darling little family. He, like my parents, deserves more recognition than he will ever get, especially through a silly Facebook post. So if you run into him at church, a city council meeting or a school field trip, give him a hug, a handshake or a high-five for surviving our childhood. He deserves it.