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Happy Birthday to a pretty cool big brother

POSTED February 02, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                  Thanks for letting me share the front seat


            He’s 60 Monday (Feb. 3) and it’s pretty hard to believe. The hair has moved back a bit but it’s still a healthy crop and you need a microscope to find a hint of gray or at least better specs than the ones I am sporting.

            The stomach is still flat, the weight a pretty consistent 185 pounds so give or take a third or fourth helping here and there (he’s a big time picker at the table). He packs the skis and goes up to Mohawk on his own when time allows it, visions of Billy Kidd, Bode Miller and Stein Erickson still in his dreams (okay, maybe you have to be dated a bit to know who Stein is but trust me he was famous on the skis).

            He can still shoot a basketball ball although it doesn’t happen too often and toss a football around. He likes to hike and mow. He mows and mows and mows and then he mows some more. The North 40 never looked better.

            The bottom line is that my brother Gary doesn’t look anywhere near the age the calendar says he is. It makes you kind of envious and it pisses you off sometimes when you are looking at your roll near the belt buckle and he is eating one with no effect.

            He still looks like the guy that rocked, rolled and remembered in his garage during his late teens and 20s, a place that was the Beverly’s of his Walnut St. domain without the dancing. Although there were a few folks that fell over through the years. Oh, and Beverly’s was torn down, the garage burned down but that is different story for a different night.  

            I have been the kid brother throughout a pretty special run. By three and half years or so, although some people in need of retina transplants now call me the older brother. I’ve decided to be big about it and credit the assessment more as a testament to his well-manicured physical state than a shot at my physical acumen.

            I guess the thing has been we have always been closer than blood; time and experience prodded by blood the connection that has made it pretty cool. I was the younger brother that wanted to hang around with his older brother.

            During the teen years particularly that doesn’t always work like say when you are 13 and he is 16. You know, 16 wants chicks, 13 wants chicken and things like that. I don’t know how often the issue came up with his friends but it did come up. Yet never once did he tell me to drag or say I couldn’t hang around with him. I wasn’t with him day and night but for large chunks to time.  His friends then became my friends and remain so to this day.

            You remember things like that.

            Along the road he still did his things and I still did my things. But so many things we have done together. From all the playground games before we hit double figures in age in one of the best neighborhoods a kid could grow up in, the kind of place where there was always a game and a friend to play with to heading up to Woodstock to watch Elton John and Santana, it has been so much a shared experience.

            Wonderful Saturday afternoons at Yale Bowl with my dad and his gang and enjoying it together. Still today, an annual trek to New Haven to see Yale-Harvard or Yale-Princeton. Two-on-two games at a neat outdoor basketball court in Plymouth with 8-foot hoops. He played with Charlie Polowski, who died much too young of cancer, and I had Mark McGoldrick as my partner. Doing it together.

            For years we played big-time softball against one another and then finally got on the same team and played for almost a decade together. Good stuff.

            All the basketball and whiffle ball games in our yard as we got older. Never really far from one another. Through the years, vacations together with our families watching his kids, Greg and Kelsey grow up in the water on Long Beach Island in New Jersey and my son, Jonathan become his own big Cahuna on the beach.

            Off to Philadelphia to take on the Army-Navy football extravaganza and shop for old records in a quaint shop in Little Italy.

            The shared interest in music and going on the road to share the interest – at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury for Earth, Wind and Fire and the Temptations and Four Tops, to Woodstock to watch the 40th anniversary celebrations of the event and see groups like the Doobie Brothers and Lynard Skynard along with the Beach Boys and Santana.  Going through the fabulous museum of the 1960s they have there and standing on the site of the original festival.

            Most recently going to Oakdale to see John Fogarty of Creedence fame. The music connection has produced hours of fun.

            Even today we’re never far away, our houses less than two miles apart, the big holidays always in one spot.

            We haven’t missed much. We have laughed and cried, laughed and argued won and lost and the best part is much of it together. Heck, I’ve even forgiven him for his biggest indiscretion. When he was about six, thinking he was competing in the Bass Masters Classic, he casted his fish line and the hook caught me in the corner of the eye while I was on my tricycle. We got it out and all is good and he doesn’t fish any more. The fish are happy about that.

            In adult-hood when he decided to shear his big toe off with the lawn mower I went in the ambulance with him in the hospital and was there while the doctors worked on him. In case you are interested a neighbor found the toe in a bush and brought it to the hospital where it floated forlornly in cup with solution behind us. Too late. The digit died.

            When I threw my back out he was at the house almost daily. Always a two-way street.

            It is really hard be believe my Little League teammate, bunk-bed partner (he got the top) and friend along the road is 60. It’s moved by like a Nike swoosh.

            You know it is good to have a brother but it is better to have a brother that is good. He turns 60 but it doesn’t seem possible. The journey has passed and continues to pass much too quickly. But I have been along in different segments for much of the ride.

            It’s his day, but my turn to say thanks. He has allowed me in the passenger’s seat for many of moments along the way and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

            So happy birthday to good brother who long ago let me hang around and has always made a place for me at the table.   

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