Today is my brother’s birthday. Ken is one of those guys who could have nearly every adjective used to describe him, yet you really wouldn’t have a full understanding of who and what he is. Have you ever had someone give you an Indian Burn? My brother used to be the best giver of those. Growing up with a big brother taught me to be tougher in many situations. I’m pretty sensitive, by nature, but Ken taught me how to be stronger … an interesting characteristic that would serve me quite well, later in life.
When we were growing up, Ken could beat the tar out of me, like big brothers do, but you better pity anyone else who ever laid a hand on me, or threatened me. Back in the day when you could do things like this; it is one of my favorite stories to tell about my brother. When I was in the first grade, I would ride the bus home in the afternoons. My big brother is six years older than I am, so he was in middle school (7th grade) when I was in first. Anyway, there was this boy who was bullying my friend and me, both. He was a much bigger kid than I was, and he would plop down on the seat next to me, not letting my friend sit next to me, and would shove me back down if I tried to get up.
One day when I got home and was telling my mom about this boy, my brother’s ears perked up. “He shoved you back down in your seat when you tried to get up?” Ken asked. I remember crying at the kitchen table as I retold the story.
The next day when we got to my stop, just as I started to stand up as the bus doors opened, my brother climbed on the bus. Our bus driver had driven Ken, so she knew him well. Ken smiled politely at her and asked how she was and told her he needed to have a word with the boy sitting next to me. She smiled and told him to go ahead. (Y’all know good and well this behavior would absolutely not be tolerated today, but I’m sure glad it was, back in 1981!)
Ken climbed on the bus and went straight to the bully. “Is this the one?” he asked me. Nervous and not having any idea what he was about to do, I nodded my head yes, staring in disbelief. My brother leaned over in this kid’s face and said, “That’s my little sister. You ever touch her again, you’ll have me to deal with. Understand?”
That boy probably needed a change of pants by the time he got home, but needless to say, he never bothered me again.
“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” - Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
Over the years, there were many occasions I wanted to call or text Ken and get him to go all, “Don Corleone” on someone. But I didn’t. Because even though he is exceptionally brilliant, if my brother thought for a second someone was hurting me, the 7th grade Ken would show up. And I would never put him in that position.
When our parents’ house burned in the Gatlinburg fire in 2016, Ken was the glue that held us all together. When he saw me start to lose it, he would tell me, “Stay strong for Mom and Dad.” But if they weren’t around, he would just hug me as I cried. Ken was the one who knew when to interject the mood with humor. When we all stayed with my college roommate, Rebecca; the night we returned to her house after seeing the damage from the fire, we were all in shock. Everything … every little thing, was gone. Burned to the ground. It was devastating. That night as we all sat around talking in Rebecca’s living room, Ken said, “At least Aimee and I won’t have to go through all of Mom’s hoarding now … the fire took that burden off our plates.”
I, myself, would have thought, “Too soon, Ken! Too soon!” But Mom and Dad both cracked up.
Then, that Christmas, if you have followed my page for a while, you know this story, but it’s a good one, so I’ll tell it again. Mom started to open a present and said, “To Mom and Dad, from Aimee.” I looked up and then looked at Ken, because I didn’t recognize the wrapping paper. I said, “That’s not from me.” Mom looked at the label again and said, “Well, that’s what it says! It says, ‘To Mom and Dad, from Aimee.’” By this time, Ken and my sister-in-law were both standing there with a smirk, and I noticed their phones had come out. I figured they were giving something to our parents and not taking credit for it, so I immediately fessed up and said, “Listen, I don’t know what that is, but it’s not from me.”
You see, Ken is extremely generous. He will give to anyone in need and not look for an ounce of credit, so I assumed this gift was something like that.
Boy was I wrong.
It was sex toys. Ken bought sex toys and wrapped them up for our parents, and labeled it, “To Mom and Dad, From Aimee.”
That’s the kind of brother I have. Crazy, wicked, funny, strong and sweet.
Ken was born for adversity. When I’m an emotional mess, Ken is the pillar of strength we all need.
It’s a burden, I think, for people like my big brother. They’re always the strong ones. They’re always the ones to whom we turn with a crisis. They’re always the ones who hold us up when we feel like we are about to quake and break. I want to do a better job of letting people like Ken know, you don’t have to be the strong one, all the time. I’ve got your six.
Happy Birthday to the best big brother a girl could have. We love you very much … sick humor, and all!