A birthday greeting to my friend and hero

In my life I have been blessed with a number of close friends. I have been fortunate enough to have had mentors who have helped guide me through various stages. And I have had many people whom I consider to be worthy of the title hero. But I only have one person in my life who has always held all three titles, my brother David. I was the youngest of four children and there was a big gap in our ages, with my oldest brother being 18 years older than me. David was the closest to me, being just six years my senior.

I have often thought the old television show, “Leave it to Beaver,” could have been written about David and me. While many consider me the suave and sophisticated person I am today, believe it or not, there was a time I was a gooberish kid, much like Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. I had dumb ideas, did even dumber things, but I could have probably managed even dumber if it hadn’t been for Dave.

Most all of my early recollections include him. No matter what he was doing, I was always the tag-along little brother that guaranteed he had no privacy or secrets. I know he was a better person than me, because I would have strangled my little brother if I had a little brother like me. And while I am sure there were times he wanted to slip away from his personal albatross, he never made me feel guilty or bad for wanting to be constantly at his side. We shared a bedroom so we were the first people we saw each morning and the last each night. When something frightened me or upset me, he was just inches away to wake up and reassure me.

I can remember many a Friday night that we spent at the local movie house. As he got older, I tagged along to high school football games. Some of the best nights of my life were spent watching him play baseball. Sometimes I was there to simply play in the dirt, other times I was sitting in the stands cheering him on. When I was at an age I could play football, my dad lost his job. I wasn’t going to be able to play, but David stepped up and paid the fees to get me in the league.

I vividly recall when he left for college. I was just starting junior high and having a room to myself was a foreign experience. Unlike today, there weren’t cellphones or emails, so we wrote letters and I awaited his coming home for weekends on occasion. On a few occasions, I took a bus from Overland Park to Pittsburg, Kansas, to spend time with him at college. As was my role, I would again be a geeky little brother who did virtually everything possible to embarrass and annoy him. He still took it in stride.

He got married when I was just starting high school. He asked me to be his best man and it was the proudest moment of my life. However, when the wedding came, I again lived down to my reputation. Between nerves and sadness and maybe happiness, I cried like a baby, embarrassing myself and probably ruining a fine ceremony. In fairness, I still cry at weddings. It’s what I do.

We have grown older and I don’t see him as often, but he still is always there for me. When I needed work, he provided it. When I need advice, he gives it. When I have been sick, he is still here for me. I learned so much about being a dad by watching him and seeing how he loved and nurtured his children. He is there for me.

I write about David this week because in three days he will turn 70 years old. I find that so very hard to believe because I look at him and see a teenaged boy who is taking his little brother out in the front yard to play catch or walking his little brother to school to make sure the local bullies are leaving him alone. I am sad because I would like to be there to join his family in a birthday celebration, but unfortunately, because of COVID concerns, there will be no party. The only thing I can share is a few words with the world about him.

One final note: as always I request you please wear a mask.