When I first considered crafting this entry, I worried this list would be a tough one. Growing up, my relationship with Billy was more adversarial than affectionate. Even now, I tend to refer to him as my "other brother" simply because my youngest brother (Kevin) is so clearly my other half. Billy's birth made me the middle child - my psychological destiny - where Kevin's birth just made me a little less lonely. Billy's birth was most unsettling not because I was no longer the baby, but because I came to understand that I wasn't a boy. As he grew, I could see just how eagerly my dad had longed for this, his number one son.
Billy, because of his gender it seemed, got away with murder. His every wish was (and in many ways still is) Dad's command. I remember I first realized how much influence he had when Billy got our dad to voluntarily enter a mall (the then-new Plaza Bonita) to purchase whatever it was that Billy so needed (I think it was a baseball). Not a big deal, you might think. But this was our dad, the man once described so eloquently by my uncle as "tighter than a donkey's asshole facing uphill against the wind." And so, in the language of our family, money equals love and, in my young mind, every dollar my dad spent humoring Billy was a dollar less he loved me. Twisted, I know, but no less true.
Although my husband disagrees, I feel I've gotten over much of my first-born-penis envy. I see now that we were all over indulged, ungrateful brats and I no longer begrudge my brother for being more successfully spoiled. In fact, I now appreciate his persistence and the guile behind his tactics. Billy's dedication to his goals, though somewhat demented, was not so much a character flaw as a personal strength. I've also come to realize that my mom was right and Billy, in all his antics, really was just seeking attention and approval. While he could get whatever he wanted from our dad, Billy could never get what he wanted from his sisters. Our exclusion of him was so complete that we once made up our own board game (called "Money," funny enough) and labeled it "for ages 7 and up" (as Billy was still 6). Boys can be violent and dirty, but girls can be downright cruel.
And so imagine my delight when I found it easy to express my admiration for the boy my brother was and the man he has become. Here are 32 reasons I love my brother:
- He made my nieces, Savannah and Madisyn, and he loves them wholly, even though they aren't boys.
- He had the good fortune to marry a good woman and the good sense to feel nervous about it. I love that they eloped on New Year's 2000, making it nearly impossible to forget their anniversary.
- He's super coordinated. He can ride a unicycle and juggle and, with practice, he can even ride a unicycle while juggling.
- He embraced all the 80's fads, especially break dancing.
- He once won a trophy for weight lifting. He still has ginormous forearms and I hope someday to convince him to dress as Popeye for Halloween.
- He's not horribly sentimental. He doesn't hold on to relics from past relationships.
- When he was learning to talk he had difficulty expressing himself and I was his sole translator. I still remember him struggling to form the "J" in my name with his incredibly unhelpful tongue. It always came out, "ya.. ya.. ya, yenni."
- He runs his own business. In fact, he's always been an entrepreneur. He used to buy candy in Mexico and resell it in school.
- He dreams big - too big, sometimes. He wants to add a parapet and a multi-story parking structure to his house.
- He's artistic. He wants to weld a sea creature sculpture and place it surreptitiously in the bay by his home.
- He's fearless. He used to dive into our swimming pool from the roof of our house. I shudder to think of the things he would try when he was away from home.
- He's got quick reflexes. What helped him master video games in his youth allowed him to successfully remove his girls from a runaway truck before it crashed into a tree.
- He's always been popular. I have few social graces and I'd like to think this flaw is genetic. Clearly I am wrong.
- He once cut his finger tip nearly off and he waited politely outside while I fetched Mom so that he wouldn't bleed on the hardwoods.
- The last time we fought he was almost 13 and I defeated him after unexpectedly punching him in the face. I love that he remembers it wrong and thinks he won.
- He slipped off to Tijuana the morning he was supposed to meet with a military recruiter.
- School was never easy for Billy and, after failing English, he found himself one class shy of graduating high school. I love that he took the class over, got a B all by himself, and earned his diploma.
- He was into skateboarding and he forgave me for being upset that he bought the same board (a "hippie stick") as a friend of mine.
- Much as I died of embarrassment when he'd pee in the street in front of my friends, I love that he's teaching his girls it's okay to go outside if you want to.
- He didn't poop the whole time he was at 6th grade camp. That's like a week. I don't know if I'm more impressed our disgusted.
- Once, on one of a million boring road trips we took together as children, he startled two unsuspecting passersby by shooting his cap gun out the crack of the van window.
- He makes cool bird houses out of old license plates.
- He's pretty honest - he'll tell you anything.
- He's willing to help out. He installed a much needed water heater at Eloise's house.
- He takes his trash to dump himself instead of paying to have it hauled away weekly. I thought this was because he was being cheap, but it's not. If he takes his trash to the curb weekly, you see, he has to think of it 104 times a year. If he takes it to the dump say monthly, he only has to think about it a dozen times each year. Gross, I know. And tellingly eccentric. What I love even more is that my sister also has to make trips to the dump (she uses more cat litter than the law allows). Better still, they both loaded their trucks the day before Thanksgiving only to discover, independently, that the dump was closed for the holiday. I chuckle when I imagine them hauling around household garbage and cat shit for the entire holiday weekend.
- When he was young, my sister and I convinced him he was a boy-girl so he would let us put barrettes in his hair. I distinctly remember explaining, "there's boys and there's girls and then there are boy-girls..."
- He's gullible. Not once, but twice, he has purchased bogus stereo equipment while waiting in line in a drive thru.
- My sister and I, while babysitting him, once inflicted him with rug burn while dragging him upstairs to wash his mouth out with liquid soap to punish him for cussing. (Why liquid soap? Again, girls can be cruel. Why not bring the soap to him? I guess we were caught up in the moment...) I love that he not only forgives us but he counts this memory, along with the one where we insisted he strip and show us his first alleged pubic hair, among his favorites.
- He once bought movie tickets for the entire family at Christmas time. I'm fairly certain we never used them and I remember my mom scolded him for not buying them through the military where they would have been cheaper. I personally was touched that he had gotten us anything at all. In fact, I'd venture to say that that unused movie ticket was the best Christmas present I've ever gotten.
- He's good at chess. We don't play chess in our family so I have no idea where he even learned it.
- He loves eggs. It's disgusting how many he can eat. Yet he doesn't like cake. Who doesn't like cake?
- He built an entire house (without a permit, on my parents' easement) because he felt like it. For whatever reason, we call it the Devil's Whore House.
Happy Birthday, Brother.