Today is the 53rd anniversary of one of the best days of my life. My brother Bob was born this day, and as you can see from this early picture of us, he immediately removed all the pressure for me to be the cute one in the family.
I was nearly eight years older than him so in the first few years I was more often a baby sitter than a buddy. And later I missed all of his high school years, having moved out and started my own family long before then. It is a real joy for me that despite all that we have become very close friends as adults.
Bob was almost the opposite of me as a kid. He was an incredibly natural athlete, whereas I was - and am - not. Bob excelled in baseball and basketball. I feel proud when I walk a full block without stumbling.
But DNA always ends up showing through and we do share more or less the same hairline and sense of humor. In fact, I do not believe I laugh as much or as hard as I do when he and I are together.
Bob's a hard worker, a great father and in recent years has been a fabulous son, helping my folks in so many ways while their other son sits writing blogs half a world away. But this is a post celebrating his birthday, not a homegrown episode of "This Is Your Life". So let me wrap it up with one of my favorite memories.
I was 17 at the time, and he was 9. I was big. He was whatever size a 9-year-old is. When my parents went out, I was the default babysitter. But unlike somewhat more sedate nannies, the sound of their car leaving the driveway was often the starting whistle for a game of Buttons Ball.
Buttons was our chihuahua. Typical of the breed she was dumb and aggressive. Buttons Ball was a pretty simple game. One of us would take Buttons' toy ball and have to hold onto it for, if memory serves me right, a count of 10. It was the job of the other guy to do whatever he could to wrestle the ball out of his opponent's hand and begin the ten count himself. No punching or kicking, but no Marquis of Queensbury rules, either.
Wait, you're saying. You were a fully grown 17-year-old, and he was a little 9-year-old. Well, that's true but the matches were usually quite even. That's partly because Bob was tough, strong and agile. And I wasn't. But mostly it was because Buttons was also playing.
This dog the size of a large rat was ferocious when we held her ball and she wanted it. She would yelp and growl, and when she saw even a bit of the ball she would scratch madly at your hand as she growled, trying to grab the ball in her teeth.
So you need to picture me as Big Guy desperately clutching the ball, while little guy is doing his best to bend my fingers back past breaking point, and all the while the yappy rat dog was baring her teeth and clawing at the skin on my hands.
It was a great game. We couldn't wait for the folks to leave. I don't remember much about the outcome of the Buttons Ball matches, but I do recall one of my friends at high school looking at me oddly when he asked why I had all these welts on the back of my hands and I told him I had babysat my brother the night before.
Happy birthday, Bob.