I have been thought of as a brother several times by people who are not members of my nuclear, birth family. The first one to do this was Carlos, our family’s foreign exchange student from Mexico. Another person was one of my second cousins who was also a roommate. Later, a coworker/roommate said we were brothers. Another one of note was a close friend who said she considered me to be the brother she never had. Whenever I was introduced to their friends and acquaintances, I was presented as their brother.
It is quite an honor to be thought of as someone’s brother in this way. Perhaps they all saw the brotherly attributes I acquired as the oldest sibling in my birth family. My sister and my brother said they both looked up to me as sort of a parental figure. This is the case due to some of our parents’ domestic issues when I had to take up some of the slack. Both of my siblings frequently came to me for advice.
One of the best aspects of my family was having a brother. Mark was not an obligatory tag-along “baby brother”; he was my true-blue friend. Because dad’s job required some relocations, we two brothers were default pals. Add to this the fact that we were redheads–a physical trait that brings with it, social disadvantages. So, yes, we often leaned on each other for mutual support and validation.
Even after we left home, Mark and I remained fairly close. Even though we had separate lives and romantic-domestic partners, we managed to maintain a level of best friends’ connection. He still liked to consult with me before he made any major decisions. We were still co-conspirators until his death on the first week of January 2012.
Choosing a snapshot of Mark took awhile yesterday. After much consideration, it seems like the one with him dressed in a red tee-shirt expresses his personality best. He was about to light a cigarette when I snapped the picture with my Kodak Pocket Instamatic one summer day in 1977.
The cigarette is important, because smoking was the major contributing factor to his fatal heart attack. The decrepit car with the grey primer paint job was one of several 1957 Chevrolets he liked to work on. Mark was obsessed with that year and type of Chevy to an almost unhealthy degree. I’ve never met anyone else who has a similar fixation.
So, today on National Brothers Day, Mark is in my thoughts. If you have a brother or are a brother, I hope your day is special, too.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes a thought from singer Tito Jackson. “With brothers you become friends. Some you hang out with more than others. You talk to one about the other a little more. You get mad at them. Then, you love them. Then, you apologize. You have to apologize whether you want to or not. You have to. That’s your brother.”