Sandy Roffey thinks all brothers are jerks. She means that in the nicest way possible.
All brothers are jerks.
I feel like I have the authority to make that statement; not only have I been raised with three older brothers, but I am married to one (not mine), and I am raising one (mine, but not my brother.)
Brothers always find ways to harass you—they know your sensitivities and how to best attack them, for example:
“Do these jeans make my butt look big?”
“No, but your butt makes those jeans look big.”
They know how to stress you out (What do you mean you don’t let the kids swim to the dock? I’ve been telling them to do flips off of it for ten minutes now!), and they know the best way to embarrass you (For instance: Car dancing to “Baby Got Back” on Route 1 in packed traffic with the windows down and the radio blasting.) They know how to intimidate any boy who comes to the house for a date, and they know how to horrify you in front of said boy. (Thankfully, said boy is also a brother, so he wasn’t scared away.)
They have good qualities, sure.
What you generally hear about Charlie is that “Charlie is Charlie.” You can’t completely describe my oldest brother; he was born with a complete lack of fear (common sense, really, but let’s go with fear.) He is the total “wild child” in the family. He is the kid you would find on the beach at 3 a.m… when he was three years old. I didn’t see him much as we were growing up, because he is eight years older than me, and he was off doing “teenager things.” He has his own kids now, and they are besties with my two oldest. He is like a big kid himself, so those things you hate to do with the kids (like playing in the snow) are right up his alley.
My brother Bill, the “middle child,” was a lot like a surrogate father when we were growing up. My parents had divorced when I was about 8, and my mother had to go back to work. She had to leave early in the morning to take a bus and a train into town, so Bill was the one who made sure we didn’t skip the school bus (he once found us hiding behind a building while we waited for the bus to leave). He is the person who, as much as he might hate it, is always the one you call in the middle of the night when the car is broken down. I’m pretty sure this has helped to make me NOT the favorite. He is six years older than me, and when he settled down and had his own kid to raise I didn’t see him as much.
My brother Jay and I were just over two years apart, and we were both born on the 22nd of our respective months. We shared our birthday party every year growing up. We were both comic book junkies, and we made the hour and a half long trip to my dad’s together every Sunday for about ten years. He was the glue in our family-—where I was six and eight years younger than my eldest brothers he was only four and six. He was the one you could talk to at two in the morning… he could talk to any one of us, and he was a pretty easygoing guy. He was a prankster, he loved to laugh, and he was, whether we knew it at the time or not, everybody’s favorite.
We lost him at the tender age of 31, when he somehow managed to contract meningitis. He went to bed with a headache, and despite all of the attempts to keep him alive, his body couldn’t keep up, and he died.
My own body could not process this—between anger and grief I could barely function. His wake is a complete blur to me. Charlie, the wild child, had become a grown-up in an instant, and had thoughtfully and soberly taken care of the arrangements. Jay had wanted to be cremated. By silent agreement, we didn’t stand in a reception line, instead we walked around the funeral home telling and hearing his stories. I remember only one moment clearly: I stood at his casket, and for the first time that entire day I started to choke up and break down. My brother Bill was there in an instant, once again filling in for my dad, who had passed the year before. His hand squeezed my shoulder, and his voice reassured me that I could handle this. It settled me almost instantly. It was very us, our family, showing calm in the face of adversity.
We all had changed. The death of a child certainly changes any parent, and the death of our brother drastically changed the dynamic of our family. In 12 years there have been no more family pictures, not really… because one of us is missing. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have grabbed my phone to call him when a comic book-based action movie has come out. I named my son after him. I now judge everything in my life by this same standard: If they died tomorrow, would I have regrets? It tends to make things that would normally aggravate the hell out of me slightly less annoying.
I could never see any good in my youngest brother dying, but if I had to search for one tiny meaning in such a senseless thing, then I felt like it helped me become closer to my older brothers. When he first died I was so lost, and I remember feeling like there would be no one for me to relate to anymore. My two older brothers were close in age, and had shared many experiences much the way Jay and I had. As time passed I realized how much he had been a bridge between each of us. His death forced us to be our own bridge, to connect in ways we never had before.
Brothers are still jerks. My oldest brother still riles up the kids, and my middle brother still makes fun of my ass. And my brother Jay? Every now and then I ask him to “send me a sign, just let me know that you’re here,” usually while I’m driving in the car. If “I Like Big Butts” doesn’t come on (which it has), then it is usually something like “Even the Losers” or “Loser Like Me,” you can think I’m crazy, but I know my brother—he’s calling me a loser for talking to nobody in the car.
I leave nothing to regret these days, and I love those jerks. When my oldest daughter and my son are fighting because he won’t stop mimicking her, I tell her the truth: All brothers are jerks. But I wouldn’t trade mine for the world, and I’d give pretty much anything to have my brother Jay back. I tell her to embrace it because one day he might be too busy to bother her, and believe it or not, she will miss it.
Yes, all brothers are jerks, but know that when the chips are down your brother will be there to hold you up. Again.