Thirty-six years ago, my idyllic life was forever altered by the arrival of my newborn brother. For six and a half years I had been the only child and I’m not gonna lie, I enjoyed it. When my mom told me I was going to have a brother or sister, I immediately voted Sister. She could share my room, my clothes, my dolls and I might let her play with my treasured Barbie Townhouse, if she promised not to yank on the elevator too hard and break the string. My dad was getting tired of replacing it every week or so.
I practiced feeding, burping and changing diapers on my dolls. I set up my high chair in the kitchen and fed my doll during dinner. I walked around the driveway with my dolls in the stroller. I rocked my dolls to sleep at night in the crib my dad made for me. Oh, it was going to be unicorns and butterflies to have a sister.
This is what I got.
Darell Travis Foreman. A boy. What. The. Hell? This is not what I asked for. Take it back. Do not want.
But he stayed. So I dealt with it in a mature fashion – I ignored him and carried on with my life as if nothing had changed. But as his room was next to mine and he had a tendency to screech in the middle of the night, it was tough to forget he was there. I do remember one night I woke up and heard him crying. My dad was out of town for work, and my mom was apparently exhausted because Travis cried for a while but I never heard her get up. I finally went to his room and peeked in between the bars of his crib at his little fat red face all puffed up from crying. I patted his back and probably said something soothing like “shut up, you annoying beast.” He settled down once he knew someone had come to save him, even if it was only That Girl Who Ignored Him.
I just remember thinking at that moment, hey, he’s not so bad. He was about 4 or 5 months old, so he was learning to hold up his head and starting to smile. I had noticed that when I would take time out of my busy schedule of Barbies to talk to him, he didn’t just lay there, he actually looked at me. Once he learned to walk and started to talk, I slowly began to realize that he was fun to play with. My favorite game was Put His Favorite Toy On Top Of The Piano And Watch Him Lose His Mind. Or offer him a ride on the canister vacuum cleaner, then yank the hose really hard and throw him off the back. Of course, while my parents were watching, I would read him books or roll a ball to him, but as soon as they turned around, that ball went right for his head. What? It was a Nerf ball, not a softball. I’ve got some compassion, geez.
I wasn’t always mean to him. I let him play with my coveted Dress Up Hat. God, I loved that hat.
And we wrestled. Sometimes I let him win.
As he got older and we wrestled, I would get a little rough with him. My mom would break us up, comfort the little whiner baby, and remind me that some day he would get bigger and probably pay me back. I never believed her, until that fateful day when he was about 5 years old. Somehow he managed to flip me over his back and clonk my head on the wooden arm of the couch. As I rubbed my head, it felt wet, and when I looked at my hand it was bleeding. Holy crap! I looked at Travis and he just grinned at me. Speechless from shock, I went to my mom, showed her my hand, pointed to my head, and waited to be comforted. She said, ”I told you so.” I bet that’s where I got my compassion from. I kid, I kid. Anyway, I guess she did feel sorry for me, because she took me to get my ears pierced later that day, which I had been BEGGING her to do for months. So I guess I owe him for that.
As he grew up, and well, I grew up too, I started to view my brother not as an aggravation but as a friend. Ironically, we became closer when I moved away. When I moved out, he was 12 years old. My roommate *coughBOYFRIENDcough* worked weekends, so on Saturdays I would pick up Travis. I would bring him back to the apartment and we would swim or play tennis. Sometimes we’d go ride go-karts or play miniature golf. I’d take him to the music store and I remember buying him Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue and the Run DMC cassette where they did the duet with Aerosmith. I’m sure my parents loved hearing Walk This Way 900 times in a row. I took him to Springfield to go shopping for school clothes, and not only did he ask my opinion, he took it!
When he joined the Coast Guard, I was so proud of him. He’s been stationed in South Carolina and Tampa, Florida, and travelled all over the Caribbean, then lived in Panama City and San Diego. He did a year tour in Iraq, and that scared the hell out of me. When he told me he would be moving to Parris Island, Tennessee, when he came home, I was so glad, because he’d be a short road trip away. Sadly, he only got a year in Tennessee and now he’s in Maine.
But no matter where he was in this world, he’d still call me at least once a week. One of those phone calls is chronicled here. If you haven’t read this one, please click over. I’ll wait….
Happy birthday, Travis. I love you and I’m so proud of you, and I’m sorry for making you dress like a girl. I hope you enjoy your birthday present - I put all these pictures in a frame for you.