Your love for me, over the years, has taken many, sometimes strange, forms. When you were a toddler and I was an infant, your love for me showed when you kept stuffing my mouth with pieces of chestnuts that our Mom was giving to you. Your generosity then, though rather misguided, has been, mostly, your general attitude towards me.
True, in typical sibling form, when you were a child, and I was a toddler, your love for me was tinged with jealousy. It was during that period that you always did your best to shut me out. Literally. Every time we were out as a family, coming back to the apartment, if you got the opportunity, you quickly shut the apartment door before I could get in. Of course I was too young, and short, to reach the bell, so there I sat on the mat waiting for someone to realize that I was missing and come out looking for me. When this happened often enough, our parents used to keep an eye out for that and made sure I was in the house before you shut the door.
When we were children you really were very fair in your treatment of me. Most of the time you treated me like you treated Prince, and that was a mixture of care tinged with possession that we were both your prized toys.
I was always your second in command in your games, your army when you needed one, your thief when you were a policeman, and your dead enemy when playing war. You even sometimes indulged me by pretending to take tea, before going off to your worldly adventures.
The tents we built in our balcony with the bed sheets, the pieces of pasta or peanuts we used as gambling chips, while smoking “cigars” made of broken spaghetti, when playing gamblers (where you invariably won), but the most painful games were when we got slightly older, I think seven or eight, and you started using me as target practice. I must admit this only happened once when you hit my leg with the rifle you had one Christmas, and it hurt so badly, it went red and looked worse than it actually was, you felt really guilty and half begged, half threatened me not to tell. I did not, and you never used your rifle on me again, never even threatened me with it again. The second time you did something similar was when you were in your phase of chemical exploration. You concocted a brew which you sprayed at me from under the bathroom door, which stung so badly I was coughing for the rest of the day with irritated sinuses. But on the whole, when you did something that really hurt me, you never repeated it. I think it was not only that you were afraid of punishment by our parents, but that you also did not want to break “your toy”.
Just before our teen years, when we started walking to school on our own, your legs were much longer than mine, you were the boss and we were invariably late, so you always walked at a very brisk pace, which to me was a race. So you gave me exercise every morning for ten minutes, and we mostly made it before the bell rang.
In true adolescent form, those were the years you totally ignored me, I was that weight around your neck when you wanted to go out with your buddies and have adventures, and I must say you rarely forgot me at the club after parking me out of your way while you were busy playing sports, or trying to impress your buddies by some impossible feat. You mostly remembered to take me with you when going back home. By that time I had developed some friends of my own, so it wasn’t as bad as all that.
As young adults we were part of a larger group of friends, boys and girls, where the dynamics changed constantly, but where you mostly kept a careless lookout for me. Then came the period of male assertiveness, when you wanted to constantly tell me what I was allowed or not allowed to do.
Two incidents, when we were at college showed me, that despite your either ignoring me or criticizing me, you still cared. When there was an accident to one of the trolley busses which I usually rode to college and back. This was a horrendous accident, the whole bus, with its full complement of passengers, swerved out of its way and ended up in the Nile, fully submerged. The number of dead was very high, and it was at approximately the time I was supposed to be coming back home. I was late because traffic was stopped with the rescue work taking place, and when I did get home you received me with such a barrage of shouting about being late, I felt so unfairly treated I just blurted out that I couldn’t help it and told the story of the accident. Our parents, whom you had not told about the accident, then realized why you were so upset with me, and gave you more attention than they did me. Of course, I finally realized what a fright you had had, thinking of me at the bottom of the Nile, one of those dead bodies.
The second instance was our last year at college, when war broke out and I again was late coming home because of all the tangled traffic. This time you were just sarcastic and condescending, saying that my part of the job of preparing the house for a war (blacking out the windows) was still waiting for me and that I won’t get out of it. But I had seen the worry in your eyes so that did not really sting.
As young adults you were too busy chasing girls to pay me much attention, and when you finally fell in love and got married, you were mostly off my case. When you left the country I missed you very badly. You were always there throughout my life, then suddenly, a big gaping hole. But I had to get used to it.
When I visited you and your young family in the States, I totally lost my heart to your toddler son. And when you all came back, I was whole again.
The years went by, we grew older and our parents even more so. When I had my accident, the first person I asked them to call was you, not our parents. When I needed blood transfusion, you were the donor, again, not our parents. When your marriage broke, you took out most of your frustration and unhappiness on me, but I understood, even though at the time you did not. When you remarried I was the only member of our family that was there beside you.
This very strong bond, though severely tested over the years and by some horrendous circumstances, was never severed, it was strained, and it often hurt badly, but has always been there, and now that we are on our own, just you and me left, and I think a little wiser with age, this is settling back to its depth and strength again.
The years have not always been kind to us, but at least I still have the closest person I have had, as a constant in my life, after our Mom, still there, still looking out for me, still caring in his own way, shouting at me or being sarcastic to hide his depth of feeling, but always coming through, giving me support, and in his own way showing me how much a part of him I am.
20 April 2014