I have brothers. Because I’m a female, my relationship with them doesn’t have that vibe that brothers share. I have a sister, but the difference in our ages created a rather competitive atmosphere that never really altered in spite of both of us reaching a more mature age. My relationship with my sister can be neatly encapsulated in a bit of dialogue from Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays:
Claudia Larson: You don’t know the first thing about me.
Joanne Larson Wedman: Likewise, I’m sure. If I just met you on the street… if you gave me your phone number… I’d throw it away.
Claudia Larson: Well, we don’t have to like each other, Jo. We’re family.
I am Claudia, and my sister’s Joanne. It works for us…sort of. I try not to think too much about it.
My husband is one of five sons; age differences notwithstanding, he and his brothers have an easy way of communicating and interacting, but it is easier with some than with others, and it has pretty much matured as they have. The eight year-olds can rear their heads occasionally, but they mostly keep it in the fifty-something year-old range.
And then, of course, we have J and TGG.
TGG and J are very attached to each other, and -precisely because of that- they can easily get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes it’s because their moods don’t match; sometimes it’s because they’ve spent too much time together. Other times it’s intentional. That they are 23 and 19 years old respectively has very little to do with the level of maturity at times reflected in their time together.
J still outweighs TGG by about 75 pounds; this, of course, is an argument in favor of J climbing on top of his brother, who is still sleeping, when TGG has promised to take his baby brother somewhere. This also does not affect TGG’s enjoyment of tickling J until J, who loves being tickled until he doesn’t, roars and tackles his torturer.
J and TGG interact a lot more now than they did when they were younger. It was difficult for TGG to break through to his brother while the veil of J’s self-absorption was made of heavy velvet. Not only did it hang rather heavily, but it was also rather hard to tell where the opening was. A lot of TGG’s complaints when J was little were based on the fact that J wasn’t “fun.” And the reason J wasn’t fun was because TGG couldn’t get through to him at all. J would be in the center of a room, and TGG would be all around him; while J sat, focused exclusively on whatever it was he was doing, TGG would be doing ten things around his brother.
Once in a while, J would shift outside his zone, and TGG -in typical older brother fashion- would complain about the intrusion. J was always the mountain Legos were trying to climb, the Godzilla-like monster about to topple over some building, a brand-spanking new Pokemon creature to threaten TGG’s game… As kids, they were in the same room, but in different worlds. J loved TGG fiercely, and missed him when his brother went for sleepovers. TGG was always happy to see J. They didn’t, however, have that brother-thing that leads kids to pick on each other, beat each other up, defend each other, snitch on each other until a few years ago.
As adults, J and TGG have a different vibe altogether. TGG comes home from work and seeks his brother out; in the evenings they go to the gym. On weekends they go to the movies. They go get food together. J will not leave the house in the mornings unless he’s woken TGG up, even if TGG doesn’t have to go to work that day. J will do TGG’s laundry, and then put it away for him. They now negotiate for the last roll, the last handful of mashed potatoes, where to eat…
TGG will, when his brother wants to be left alone, crawl on top of J’s bean bag and start giving him fish kisses until I hear an “OW!!!! That HURT!” because J has toppled him onto the floor. J will find a word that he can repeat 10,000 times until TGG cover his ears and yells “STOP IT!” They will throw pillows at each other when they’re supposed to be changing sheets. Bedtime stories turn into sessions that don’t quite lull and wind-down, but rather energize both of them. We have distinctly heard Joe Pesci’s voice throughout all of Mouse Tales, but only when J isn’t laughing so hard that he drowns out his brother’s voice.
I wonder what will happen when TGG moves out. If J now repeats BROTHER incessantly when TGG goes out at night, what will happen when TGG moves out? What will happen if TGG moves out of state? Out of the country? Granted, the likelihood that these things will happen anytime soon are pretty slim, but…not as slim as they used to be a year ago.
I envy J’s and TGG’s relationship a little. It started iffy, but has found solid ground. The signs were not good in the beginning, but they have improved over time. Instead of being separated by their differences, they seem to be closer because of them. Their way of communicating has been fine-tuned to a shorthand that gets them out of the house, and away from a dinner menu that doesn’t appeal to them very quickly.
Aside from the usual insistence on driving each other nuts, J and TGG have a desire to protect each other. For years now, if TGG thinks I’m being too harsh on J, he will intervene. If TGG is getting scolded, J will draw attention to himself, even if it has to be negative attention.
Because of the particular set of circumstances they’re dealing with, that they’ve developed their own way to interact and communicate is great. Maybe this has been the ideal way for them to develop their relationship: getting the self-centeredness out of the way before finding the common ground, the playfulness.
I like to think that this will turn out just fine in the end…