So, while this may be difficult to digest, I feel compelled to now come forward and confess that my brother Michael ruined most of my teen years.
Allow me to back up.
Eighth grade is a difficult year for any child under even the rosiest of circumstances. Children’s bodies are going through so many changes and kids at that age can be so cruel to each other - girls especially. My eighth grade was made even more special because my family moved to a new city smack dab in the middle of the school year and boy was I miserable.
While I know I was an absolute angel for 90 to 95% of my formative years, I distinctly remember being shall we say a bit of a “handful” in that eighth grade year.
I had zero friends and the mean girls at the new school - as only girls at this age can be - were horribly exclusive.
As a writing prompt one day, my new English teacher had us write down what we would do if we were trapped inside our houses for hours due to rain or a snowstorm. One of the absolute nicest of the mean girls was called upon to read her written work out loud and her literary masterpiece said – I kid you not - “Call up Sue Whitaker and actually talk to her.” Yeah, eighth grade was a magical time.
I was furious with my father for making us move and I let him know it every chance I got. It is a wonder I can even stand upright today so big was that chip on my shoulder.
Dad just didn't GET anything and I could not understand for the life of me how on earth I had been dealt this ridiculous hand of living with a man who was so limited intellectually and clearly so inferior to me.
So you can imagine how shocked I was when older brother, Michael, came home with his wife for a visit one weekend that year praising Dad's parenting. Mike, now in his thirties, had been generally held in my high regard prior to this visit.
Michael brought with him a very special gift for Dad on this particular trip home and I think he may have actually left his car running in the driveway upon his arrival he was so excited for Dad to open it. Inside this carefully wrapped box was a wood plaque featuring one of Mark Twain's famous quotations:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? My eyes rolled too far back in my brain and my head nearly fell off the back of my neck making it impossible for me to shoot Michael with the evil death stare I wanted to.
While tears began to form in both Michael's and Dad's eyes, I made a hasty exit from the room - most likely to vomit. I'm not sure if I said out loud that Michael had lost his mind, but I know I certainly thought it.
Dad wasted no time getting out his hammer and nail and proudly hanging the plaque at the base of the staircase so that I – and everyone else in the free world – would have no choice but to see it every time I went into the often used family room.
Seriously, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
From time to time I’d catch Dad staring wistfully at the plaque and again I’d lose my eyeballs and curse under my breath, Damn you Michael.
Like it was yesterday, I vividly remember thinking ‘Ha! No way am I going to feel any different when I am twenty-one…nooooo waaaaay.’
And then I went to college and Mom and Dad moved to Arizona.
By the time of my first visit to their new home in Mesa that Thanksgiving, the God forsaken plaque had found a new wall on which to hang. For some reason, though, it didn’t bother me nearly as much. In fact, I found myself reading it and I don’t know if I had just helped mom cut onions or something because the next thing I knew, tears were forming in MY eyes.
Then I caught Dad looking at ME with that wistful look and he had tears in HIS eyes, too. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Damn you Michael.