Joel (left) and Benjamin (right) are “The Birthday Boys”.
My little brothers love their March birthdays. As the youngest 2 of 9 children, for them a birthday is the day when the world stops and finally recognizes their existence, and, for at least a few hours, they are the center of attention.
Joel is 2-years older than Benjamin, and there is some rivalry as to who is taller, faster (laps at school), stronger (quantity of pushups), smarter (grades), or funnier (who can get the most laughs).
Joel is the scholarly fellow. He loves his books, writing, and music. Benjamin is the hands-on fellow. He likes outdoors, working, and talking. Alone, they compete; together, they are a formidable duo. They are creative which is a little scary if they have no oversight.
I got to talk to them a couple weeks ago before their birthdays, and it was rather awesome talking to them. Although they live nearby, I rarely see them. As you can see from the picture above, my family is quite conservative and serious about their Christian religion. If you’ve seen any recent pictures of me, it’s quite obvious that I’m the black sheep. Because of my being the black sheep of the family, there are some restrictions on my interactions with my family.
I miss my little brothers. And our telephone conversation reminded me of how much I am missing out on being a part of their lives.
Joel talked to me first. He told me a self-deprecating story of his chair breaking during the Sunday sermon and depositing him on the floor. I had to admit, he’s funny. For his class presentation he had designed an earthquake experiment using a concrete vibrator which had blown the breaker at school and scared mom – both of which made him extremely happy.
When I asked him what he wanted for his 12th birthday, he launched into a speech about wanting to learn piano and get some lessons. At the end of our conversation, he got 3-months of piano lessons from me along with some piano books. He was ecstatic. The only condition was that the next time I was allowed to see him; he had to play a song for me. He happily agreed while reminding me that he would end up being better at piano than me. Points to him for firing the final salvo.
Benjamin was next. His first question was “Did you hear about my rocket?”. I hadn’t, so he told me about his Nerf-style rocket and how much fun it was. I told him that sounded amazing and reminded him that he shouldn’t shoot it at Joey – knowing I was giving him ideas. He then told me about his financial straits, but he had a grown-up solution. He was going to start doing the neighbor’s lawn and wanted to know how much he should charge them for his services. I asked him what exactly he was going to do, and then told him what I thought was a fair price.
Then I asked him what he wanted for his 10th birthday. He immediately began explaining in detail to me the air-soft guns he had seen at the water store. He wanted to buy one really bad, but first needed to save the money. So he has a BB-pistol headed his way tomorrow. He was so excited when I told him. The only condition for him (besides safety) was that he had to let Joey shoot it too.
I just wish I could be there with them as they grow up. They’ve always looked up to me. They know that I’m the black sheep and that I’m not an example to follow, but I think they still miss me as their oldest brother.
I was the one who taught them to ride a bike, skateboards, and roller-blades. I showed them how to shoot my BB-guns. They learned from me to be tough. They learned that unless there was a severed artery or broken bone, they were expected to walk off their latest injury. They got to read my books, take pictures with my camera, and use my tools to work on their bikes. They helped me build our bike ramps or dig the tunnels that OSHA (mom) shut down. They’d creep out of bed late at night with me to keep an eye on the mouse traps in the garage. When they needed money, they came to me for work to earn money. When they would ride with me in my car, they always made sure to tell me to race other cars.
My only regret is that I didn’t pay spend even more time with them while I still had them around. But at least there are the fun memories we have. I’m proud of them now – although it’s from afar.
They sound so grownup and yet they are still the mischievous boys who are trying to figure out life.