Brother

This is something of a tribute. I hate mawkishness, so Lord willing there won’t be any of that here. But I also think Capon was onto something when he said “man was made to lead with his chin; he is worth knowing only with his guard down, his head up and his heart rampant on his sleeve.” Here is my sleeve. Make of it what you will.

The past four weeks have been their own kind of Hades. No need for details. They just have been. At the beginning, it felt like the world was turned very suddenly and nastily upside down; still does, to some extent. I was lucky, though. Scratch that. (I’m a good Presbyterian and we don’t believe in luck.) I was blessed. Am blessed. I have family. I have friends. The very best of both.

When you fall, these are the kind of people you want your body to land on. They’ll catch it, carry it. Wipe the blood off your face, and the tears, too. Love the hell out of you. Assure you that life, in fact, goes on, because the Storyteller is still telling this story and always has been. They’re good people like that.

I have a brother, two years my junior. We’re kind of inseparable; at least, I like to think so. The thing about brothers is, sometimes you don’t realize how close you are until one of you has to help the other pick pieces of himself up off the ground. Times like these, it hits you: you’d kill for this guy at the drop of a hat, and you know – you know, as certainly as you know anything – he’d do the same for you.

Another thing about brothers (or at least, about my brother): they seem to know instinctively that sometimes just being there is better than a dozen words, however well-intentioned. People tend to overlook this simple truth, but there it is. Sometimes all that’s needed, or wanted, is a gentle slap on the back. An acknowledgement that, Hey, you don’t have to talk, but I’m here all the same. Just sitting is cool. Brothers know this. Brothers know the therapeutic benefits of laughter and wrestling and blowing stuff up in Borderlands 2.

So I guess this is my way of saying thank you, broski. Hope I didn’t embarrass you too much. Always gold, right?

P.S. No matter how big you get, I’ll always be bigger, and fully capable of kicking your ass. Just a reminder.

Hashtaggery

#FiveWordsToRuinADate was trending on Twitter yesterday, and the circles I swim in had (possibly too much) fun with it. Below are some favorites, with a few contributions of my own:

It Had Maps In It, They Said

I’ve been a fan of Discworld for several years running, but I only recently discovered Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction. His book A Slip of the Keyboard offers a wonderful glimpse inside one of the biggest, most imaginative brains to ever grace Elfland. One of my favorite bits is where he describes his first encounter with The Lord of the Rings. I believe Tolkien would smile if he were around to read it.

I can’t remember where I was when JFK was shot, but I can remember exactly where and when I was when I first read J.R.R. Tolkien. It was New Year’s Eve, 1961. I was babysitting for friends of my parents while they all went out to a party. I didn’t mind. I’d got this three-volume yacht-anchor of a book from the library that day. Boys at school had told me about it. It had maps in it, they said. This struck me at the time as a pretty good indicator of quality.

I’d waited a long time for this moment. I was that kind of kid, even then. What can I remember? I can remember the vision of beech woods in the Shire; I was a country boy, and the hobbits were walking through a landscape which, give or take the odd housing development, was pretty much the one I’d grown up in. I remember it like a movie.

There I was, sitting on this rather chilly sixties-style couch in this rather bare room; but at the edges of the carpet, the forest began. I remember the light as green, coming through the trees. I have never since then so truly had the experience of being inside the story. I can remember the click of the central heating going off and the room growing colder, but these things were happening on the horizon of my senses and weren’t relevant.

I can’t remember going home with my parents, but I do remember sitting up in bed until three a.m., still reading. I don’t recall going to sleep. I do remember waking up with the book on my chest, and finding my place, and going on reading. It took me, oh, about twenty-three hours to get to the end. (pp. 57-58)

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