When he was young, my big brother was incorrigible. He did all sorts of things, so much so that my father and mother couldn’t handle him. Because they worked, they were unable to supervise him as they wished. He was a wild colt, doing whatever he wanted. He bullied us younger siblings, played hooky from school, stayed in the street long after he was supposed to be at home. Seeing my parents’ plight, our favorite aunt stepped in and took him to stay with her. Not having children of her own, she allowed him to do whatever he chose at her home. While we were not allowed to touch her walls for fear of leaving fingerprints, he could climb all over the furniture without once touching the floor. In her eyes, he could do no wrong; She spoiled him.
Whenever he’d return home to our small apartment, we children trembled in fear. My sister, younger brother and I would plan how to get even for the mean things he’d do to us. One example, he would sit in front of our small TV, and open an umbrella so we kids could not see the screen. Once he closed my younger brother in the sleeper couch as a joke; our parents did not think it was funny. Even school couldn’t tame him. When he was still a teenager, he dropped out and joined the Air Force. He fought in the Korean War and was stationed in Japan where he wanted to stay. By the time he returned home, he was a man. Service had leavened him.
When my father was alive, our home was the center to which not only his wife and children, but also his sisters, brother, cousins and in-laws gathered to sort out their problems. Daddy was the patriarch; our home, a refuge. After his death, Big brother inherited that mantle. Though married with a family of his own, he was called upon to help other family members. We all knew we could depend on him. He opened his home to us whenever we visited or needed a place to stay, and, like Daddy, he gave wise counsel.
As an adult, I began to see my brother in a different light. Beneath the surface of this strong, quiet man was a connoisseur who sought beauty in objects he found in outlet stores, and antique shops along downtown Manhattan and in plant nurseries. He constructed a fantastic garden in his backyard filling it with beautiful and rare plants of all colors and sizes. He loved music, especially blues, and poetry. When he was young, he loved to draw. His love of art expanded while he was in Japan. Not just a loving husband and father, he was a leader. He became a 33rd degree Mason. From the obstinate young man who terrorized his siblings, my brother grew into a man I greatly respected and admired. I will always remember him for his kindness, generosity, and patience. Thanks, Sis. for your help.