Three years younger than me, my little brother’s been, I think I can say with pretty good conscience, my biggest fan.
He’s the one who’s kept up pretty closely with my artistic endeavors, driving 30 minutes from Raleigh to Durham for my first art show in NC on the very night his wife was about to give birth.
“I think we’re going to leave now,” she said around 9pm, two hours into the event. Later she’d tell me it was her idea to come, that she really wanted to be there, that the labor pains weren’t really all that bad yet. My brother had hesitated, but okayed it.
“Are you sure, you guys? I’d love for you to meet–”
“I’m sure!” said my sister-in-law.
Hours later, my nephew.
Little brothers and big sisters
R.K. will probably be the first one to read my next book. Without my prodding and despite the sensitive nature of a book that kind of paints a poor light on our parents, he got The Elopement within two days of its launch, sometime between working a couple of jobs and raising four year-old twins and a newborn, too.
My little brother held on to my writing and drawing journals from my travels when I left for Ireland in 2000. I think he may have read them, but that would be okay with me, because I wanted him to see India and the landscapes there as I had (and will write about in Vol. 4 of my memoir series).
He took care of my paintings from my semester at art school in New York. He babysat them, because I didn’t really trust my parents with things that mattered to me, knowing I was about to elope. They might not ever speak to me again. For that matter, my brother might not have either. He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t ditch me.
When I saw him recently at an Indian wedding, something interesting happened.
“Speeches are kinda boring,” I said in the buffet line for paneer and naan. With our four children at our shins blowing bubbles and pretending to be rabbits, I’d just wanted the mics to be put away and forks to come out in their stead.
He made a gesture that was neither Yes nor No.
“You know, your wedding was kind of like this. The Indian one. Hey, you know what you said when I said, ‘Why are you having two weddings?’”
I think he blushed. “No,” he said.
“You said, ‘Because of your a**!’”
Then he laughed. A good, solid laugh, the kind that I have when he says something funny to me. We have the same humor, see.
Then he straightened up. After all, he was wearing a jacket and tie. “I wouldn’t say that now.”
So what’s changed? There’s one thing.
The thing is this.
When we were in our early twenties, we were on opposite vectors, and going on our different paths at distinctly different velocities, too. We don’t approach our lives in the same way. We don’t consume art and media in the same way. We just aren’t really very much alike except for our shared sense of absurd, dry humor. His is more literary than mine, which anyone who knows me already knows this, but is centered on stupid puns. (Works great in Japanese.)
Still, I wanted to say thanks to him, for always looking up to me. For writing those letters that come at just the right points, even if there’s a lot of space between them. For being part of my life, even though we don’t talk that much and see one another even less. For coming to my New Year’s Eve 10 year wedding anniversary because it was a chance for me to make up with my family, in some small way, for eloping to Ireland more than a decade back.
My brother gets me, and as we’ve grown into our thirties and now have children, we might still be on those very different vectors philosophically but growing our own families puts us squarely aligned on the same plane.
And that, you know, is pretty darn good.
Thanks, little brother. This one goes out to you.
PS Happy Rakhi.
Make a list of people you would thank if you wrote a blog post every day for a month thanking someone. Who’d be there on the 11th day? Would you be surprised?