Thursday, September 08, 2005

Home Front

Growing up, I think we were each others' worst enemies. Playing Batman when I was four (he was two) - he cracked my skull open with a wooden block. Six stitches later, we were friends again.

Wiffle ball bats made great torpedos while in the pool. Those air/water-powered rockets sure could fly fast, and a few of those "accidental" hits with the wiffle ball bats to the head weren't as accidental as the injurer made it seem.

But like all brothers, we stood by each other. I wouldn't let older kids pick on him (we both wound up getting our asses kicked), and I felt genuine pity for him the day he slid down the gravel-covered street on his back after falling off his skateboard (he was wearing a muscle shirt at the time) - so I didn't smack him in the back . . .even though we'd been beating the crap out of each other the day before.

Age brings maturity --- err, maybe a willingness to put stupid squabbles behind you. We nearly torched the house with fireworks one steamy July night - dousing the smoldering bushes with the garden hose and hoping mom wouldn't inspect them too closely, and we both tried getting kicked out of the go-cart course in what turned into a combination go-cart race/roller derby. Stupid? Slightly psychotic? Sure, but what's life without a little life-and-death struggle at 20 mph?

We drifted apart a little in college -- 800 miles will do that, but we still kept in touch. We even worked together tending bar one summer - screwing over the boss while drinking free booze was a pleasant way to spend an evening.

And despite wanting nothing more than to smack him upside the head when we were kids, I always look forward to seeing him - the good-natured jabs, the quick sense of humor and the shit-eating grin are all infectious, and you can't help but laugh when he's around. It's easy to see why small children and dogs flock to him.

Now he's packed; his body armor sits in a corner - kevlar helmet resting on top of it. It all hides a backpack stuffed with belongings. More stuff is riding on a ship or in a plane, where it will meet him in the desert.

In two months, my brother Michael will be in Iraq. While visiting with him this weekend, it hit me -- Monday could be the last time I ever see my little brother again, and that's a hard thought to swallow.

He's a doctor; he won't be kicking in doors or patrolling the streets -- he'll be treating pilots and wounded soldiers back at the base, so odds are he'll be safe and not vulnerable to wayward explosive devices.

At least I hope so.

Ultimately, there's nothing I can do to affect what happens to him. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow; David could be knifed in a poker room brawl (that's the most likely of the three scenarios I just outlined). All I can do is hope and pray that he'll return to us in a year, safe and unhurt, and in the meantime, I'll be sending care packages and e-mails whenever possible.

I've made no secret of my disdain for this war. I thought it was bullshit when it started, and I think it's bullshit now. But I've never said anything disparaging about the troops over there - they're just fighting to stay alive and sane in a place where death and insanity seems to hold sway.

Keep your head down, Mike, and come home safe.


Farrell said...

Awesome post, Bri. I'll keep him in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

A salute to your bro and a prayer in my heart.


Gordon said...

You both are in my thoughts, dude.