Why Bother to Notice the Oldest?

Why Bother To Notice The Oldest? 

Every family has an oldest sibling. It may be a brother or it may be a sister, but somebody had to be the first born. In my family, my brother Paul is the eldest and of all my siblings, he was the one I knew the least. 

When I was born, he was already ten. I have no idea what he thought about having yet another sibling around when there were already four underfoot. But he held me, at least once, and with a smile on his face. 

I took more notice of Paul about the time I entered elementary school. By then he was a teenager. He didn’t seem to like any of us because we got in his way, confiscated things from his room and took too long in the bathroom. From what I could tell, what he did like were cars, other girls besides his sisters and playing football. 

Parting Paths

About the time I turned eight, our paths parted and he never lived with us again. Our family moved to another state while he stayed behind and lived with relatives so he could finish his senior year in high school. After high school, he enlisted in the Marines. 

 Some nights, on the evening news, there were film clips of soldiers and battles and I’d think about him and hope at the same time that I’d never have to enlist in the Marines and go off to fight a war. 

When he came home on leave and we’d all sit around the dinner table listening to his stories, he still felt far away and more like a stranger to me than a brother.  

When I was twelve and he was in college, our dad died. Once when he came home for a visit he made an attempt to counsel me, when what I needed was comfort. “You should dress more like a girl,” he’d said. His words only made me resent him. Who was he telling me I should do? 

When I was finally old enough, I left home. I didn’t keep in touch with him, but through the family grapevine, I knew about his life. He worked as an administrator in hospitals, got married, and had two sons. 

It wasn’t until years later, when I accepted an invitation to his youngest son’s wedding that I finally got to know this oldest brother of mine. I don’t know who’d changed more in that span of time that we’d not connected, my brother or me. But I finally felt grown up enough to sit down and have a conversation with him.  

As we sat across from each other in the posh hotel lobby, him recounting some event from our past, it occurred to me that we’d grown up in  very different eras. Along with that, he’d matured under the tutelage of a father, while I hadn’t. Though we’d known about each other’s lives, we’d never known each other. Now was the time to change that. 

Why bother to notice the oldest? It is worth it to get to know just who you grew up with, since you were both there anyway.

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