It is not without the help of a person 617 days my senior that I ended up as borderline tolerable as I did.
From stealing his Space Jam cassette in third grade and jacking his Master of Puppets tee four years later, to making sure I credited Jason Alexander with his pivotal role not only in Seinfeld, but Duckman, too—my older brother has played a crucial role in the human I am now.
Firstborns usually have the filial upper-hand. They're the first. They're Moses. They've come to save us, or something. They have way better baby photo albums, and virtually no discoloured hand-me-downs. But, what they don't have is a sibling to (however aggressively or apathetically) lead them through life's hoops and build their social armour—whether in the form of pure physical or psychological torture, or through the runoff learning of all sorts of facts, stats, and other seemingly useless information (that would, years later, actualize themselves as arrows of pretentious pop culture references, earning the coveted conversational badges of "Who the hell is Randy Rhoads?" and "No one cares that Chef and Shaft are the same person.").
This said, my relationship with my brother is not necessarily a unique story, nor one of any extraordinary significance—siblings in general often sustain tumultuous rapport with one another, born of equal parts torture and love. For some, the scale tips more on either end. And, as you grow up, move out and talk less, it is easier to look back on the years and moments that, at the time, were total bullshit, with nostalgic enchantment.
So, I thought I'd ask some other younger siblings what fond memories or growing pains stand out.
KT Lamond, 28
My parents' general disdain for seeing their children happy, paired with their absolute inability to care for us, made for a weird mix of a negligent-yet-strict [upbringing]. I think the idea was if my sister was forced to bring me everywhere she went, she'd be forced to behave. This was a young girl who had multiple peace bonds—juvenile versions of restraining orders—against her by the age 14, who would grow up to be the loosest cannon you've ever met. Like, eat-her-and-her-partner's-passports-and-get-stuck-in-a-foreign-country kind of loose.
So, my childhood was pretty much a blur of being that 10-year-old kid at the party camo-clad in a raccoon hat. I was simultaneously a pain in the ass and a party favour. I'd be in elementary school driving my dad's Oldsmobile full of drunk teenagers around dirt roads. Or bare-knuckle boxing my friends cock-fight style for [my sister's] viewing pleasure; being forced to smoke and get loaded on Mike's Hard Lemonade, and generally just being the ringmaster of entertainment for countless drug trips. I also got the fucking tar pounded out of me regularly. One time, she broke my pinky finger by bending it back so far, my fingernail cut my arm. As a result, I was the toughest little fucker. Now, she's a mom with a real job, and I'm still out getting loaded in a raccoon hat. No more Mike's Hard though.
Anthony Filangeri, 27
Growing up the youngest of three, it's hard to think of the nicest thing my brothers have ever done for me. Most of my childhood consisted of them sending me to the hospital and treating me like crap. One of them smashed my head against the couch, so hard in fact that a padded surface still managed to split me open, requiring stitches. And the other, while play fighting I suppose, managed to fling me face-first into the corner of his bed frame, requiring even more stitches.
I do, though, have more good memories than bad with my brothers—video games and watching wrestling, etc. It was never fun being called a "fag" though—something I got from both brothers a lot. I mean, I did play with Sailor Moon barbies at one point, so it was pretty much a dead giveaway, even though I didn't know I was gay yet. The most surprising thing for me was actually after having come out as gay at 22 years old, both brothers turned out to be more than cool with it. When you grow up thinking it's wrong to be gay, you never know how people are going to react. It was a moment where I realized that I'll always be their brother, no matter who I am. It made the whole transition much easier.
Brian Stever, 27
One night in early 2008, my identical twin brother, Dennis, and I went out for dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant, we ordered a shit-ton of food and couldn't wait to dig in, but then all of a sudden I totally lost my appetite. It happened almost instantaneously, and I quickly started to feel nauseous and like I really needed to take a shit.
After unsuccessfully sitting on the toilet for what felt like nearly 15 minutes, I came back to the table and told Dennis that I wasn't feeling well. We both agreed that a case of beer would be the best medicine I could take, so we left the restaurant and headed to the nearest liquor store. As we drove, the pain started to intensify, my belly started to cramp, and it felt as if something was growing inside of me. I thought that if I could just take a shit, everything would be better.
We arrived at our friend's house, and the guys started slamming back beers. I was double-fisting too, except in one hand was a bottle of beer and the other was a bottle of Pepto Bismol. The bottle of pink liquid went down faster than the beer itself, and I laid down on the floor as my senses started to go into overdrive. Light hurt my eyes, the music was too loud, and my skin felt like it was on fire. My friend Matt stood over me and jokingly said, "Dude, I think you need an appendectomy." If only we knew in that moment how right he was.
Nearly three hours passed by, and it was almost midnight. The guys were all drunk, and I was still laying on the floor, barely coherent. I was soaked in sweat and freezing cold. Nobody cared. I called my mom who was at a party down the street, I told her I needed to go to the hospital. I didn't think I could drive but I was the only sober one. I mustered up all the strength I had left and, clutching my abdomen, I got behind the wheel of our car. A couple minutes later, we pulled up to my mom's friend's house to pick her up, [and] a whole slew of drunk middle-aged women came staggering out to the car. She asked me if I could drive her friends home. This seemed like a cruel joke, but for some reason I said yes.
It was nearly 45 minutes until we finally reached the hospital, but that's when it hit me—I didn't have my health card. I started to panic. I thought I wouldn't get in, I was worried they wouldn't help me. I must have been thinking out loud or maybe it was twintuition, but that's when my brother [older than me by one minute] gave me the greatest gift I've ever received. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and gave me his health card. "They'll never know," he said, "We have the same DNA."
It didn't really hit me until weeks later. My appendix was removed in reality, but on paper, my brother's was removed too. What if he has appendicitis some day? What will happen if he needs to get his removed? Will they know? Almost ten years later, to this day, I haven't sorted out this issue. I feel like I should probably tell the hospital, but I'm kind of nervous to admit that it happened. I'm also pretty sure it's illegal, but who's to say I'm not actually Dennis anyway?
PK Batth, 26
I started university right before the recession hit, and working in the auto industry in Windsor, Ontario, my dad lost his job. My parents have always guarded my brother and I from any financial issues, mostly because as immigrants growing up, they didn't have much and wanted us to have more than they did. Anyways, although my parents had saved up to send me to university, it was still a tough situation balancing all our family expenses.
My brother had become much more aware of the financial issues since he was living at home while I was away at school. I didn't know it at the time, but my brother had sat with my parents and offered to start working full-time to help support me through school. He was taking courses to become a cop at the time. His main concern was [making sure] our financial situation wouldn't affect my studies.
Years later, when I was upset with my brother over something, my mother told me the story and told me I really don't know how much he cares about me. I still get a bit choked up thinking about it. Knowing he believes in me enough to make such sacrifices for my success not only motivates me, but I think also shows the power of family.
Erin McKenna, 24, and Katie McKenna, 26
Erin: One March break, my mother thought it was a brilliant idea to pay my older brother to babysit me and my sister for the week. The whole week turned into "fight week." We trained in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, boxed, did MMA, and anything else my brother, Mike, had learned about in the library book [he'd recently taken out] about fighting.
I ended up in a boxing match with my sister, Katie, mid-week where I knocked her unconscious, and we were pouring water on her to wake her up, and I got a bloody lip. I was eight, and Katie was 10.
I have a vivid memory of sitting cross-legged on a Rubbermaid toy container with my eyes closed. Mike was teaching me how to meditate, and then he just punched me as hard as he could in the stomach. He was so proud of how well I had meditated through the pain, which, I totally didn't, but pretended I did so he'd be proud and not do it again. It was hell, [but] I learned a lot. We [now] refer to this memory as "fight week." My mother found it all out about 10 years later and was mortified.
Katie: Also, I was one time literally crucified—strung up by the arms on the outside of our deck's railing. Erin prodded my ribs from below with a broomstick.
Alia Hack, 27
That time my bro convinced me a junk-mail letter from Publishers Clearing House—addressed to my father, which had one of those really fancy golden stickers on it that read "grand prize winner"—was real and that we were millionaires.
Keep in mind, we didn't open the letter. He tricked me simply on my naivety and gullibility. He even made up a song—actually it was more like chanting. Something stupid like "We are millionaires, we are millionaires." But we were singing, while dancing in a circle, in our kitchen. We bowed down low, and then raised our hands high. It lasted for a solid ten minutes.
My brother Justin was always playing tricks on me. Another time, were playing Scrabble, and he wrote the word "nugget," but he used two blanks for the Gs, except they weren't blanks. He flipped over the letters and pretended they were Gs. I remember it perfectly for two reasons—one, he got triple word score, and two, he didn't reveal he did this until after the game was over. He always had everyone laughing, except for me. But it taught me to relax and not take life so seriously. I'm now a way cooler person because of him.
Rich Aucoin, 33
I have a brother who is seven years older than me, so he's been [very] instrumental in shaping my interest in music my whole life. He helped curate my first album purchases— Led Zeppelin I and The Doors—instead of the regular radio teen-pop at age 12. He taught me how to play the drum set at 10. He had me down over my March break when I was in Grade 12 to perform on some records back when he had a studio in Seabright, Nova Scotia.
But probably, the one best thing was him inviting me to play in his band, The Hylozoists, and going on tour across Canada twice. Those were very formative experiences and definitely made me catch the touring bug and [led me to] follow the path of a musician.
Jonathan Loiselle, 32
My sister is eight years older than I am. When I was four or five years old, she was babysitting me. It was my nap time, and she told me to go in my room. She had her friend hiding under my bed dressed in a monster costume, and when I was asleep, her friend lifted my bed from underneath and then chased me out of the house.
Another time, my sister and my dad were watching Child's Play, and I was trying to get a sneak peak at my first horror flick. My sister saw me.
I had one of those "My Buddy" dolls, and, while I was sleeping, she took it out of my room, painted its hair red, tied a knife to its hand, and left it for me when I woke up. She was pretty much the worst. She's OK now though.
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