Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

     I just wanted the world to know that I had a brother. He was two years older than me, but when we were young, people thought we were twins. Our relationship morphed throughout the years, but it started out typically. My brother was the king of the neighborhood. Truly, he reigned and I was safe in his dominion.  His friends called him "Couch." That's what cool kids did, they referred to each other by their last name. I was called "Shane." One time this kid called me "Couch," retracted it, then said, "I guess you're a 'Couch' too." At that moment I thought I had found the missing link.
     My brother and I were very different. As cool and as athletic and as influential as he was, he was very emotional, explosively so. We were watching the annual showing of "The Wizard of Oz" on TV and during the scene where Dorothy is locked up in the witch's castle and Auntie Em appears to her in the crystal ball, I noticed my brother was crying. Puzzled, I asked, "Why are you crying?" He yelled back at me, "Because it's sad!" I could have taken that info to the streets and caused quite a stir: "Scott Couch cries watching 'The Wizard of Oz.'" They probably wouldn't have believed me.
     There were times when we would pal around, like up at Gramma's house which was on the outskirts of town. There was no one else to play with, so we made the most of each other's company. Alas, he was two years older and while visiting Gramma, he challenged me to touch a set mouse trap and see if I could pull my finger away before it snapped on me. He made it sound like it was possible. A millisecond later I had a mousetrap hanging off my finger and I was screaming like a banshee while my brother just laughed. Once he stood in front of the closet door and invited me to hit him as hard as I could in the stomach. I wound up and let it rip but he jumped out of the way and I ended up sucker punching the door. Oww. He just laughed. It was my lot in life as a kid brother.
    The older we got, the more we grew apart. Our differences created quite a chasm between us. He had  a tumultuous relationship with my parents and moved in and out of our house. He "borrowed" my things, if borrowed means took without asking and ruined or lost my possesions. In the 80's, this was the drill: Buy a new pair of 501 jeans, wash and wear, wash and wear, and so on. Eventually they would fade and the more worn they appeared, the better. It took quite a bit of time and nurturing to get Levis to look just right. My brother "borrowed" my most prized pair of faded 501's, worked on his car, and got oil stains all over them. I was furious. He angrily offered to buy me a new pair. "That wasn't the point!" I informed him. See Levis 501 jeans routine above.
     I offered him a few olive branches in the course of our relationship, like asking him if he wanted to go see "Rambo" with me. He accepted my invitation, but his girlfriend ended up having some issues, so she had to come along too. At least I tried.
     The story takes a sad turn. My brother had a pretty risky lifestyle and it all came to an end in June of 1987, just two weeks after he turned 21. I was 19 and death had never hit this close to home or this swiftly. The news was numbing, shocking, unbelievable, and it turned our world upside down. After he died, I wished we could have been closer, but we just didn't have the ingredients for that. Or maybe I didn't try hard enough.
     It took me a while to get over my brother's tragic death and I've often wondered what it would have been like had he lived. Would he have stood next to me in my wedding? What kind of uncle would he have been to my kids? Would he have gotten his life straightened out?
     It's been 24 years since his passing and Im feeling... that I just wanted the world to know that I had a brother.


Nikki D said...

Very touching Shane, makes me reflect on my strained relationship with my brother.

Veronica said...

Thanks for sharing your heart felt story. There is always something good to read on your blog.

Unknown said...

Are you sure you shouldn't write a book? You are a very talented writer and I really liked this story. I too am going through a rough spot with my brothers and wonder if I should reconcile. This story is getting me to think about it. Thanks!

MomInTraining said...

I loved reading this. I've got three younger brothers, and a strained relationship with all of them. All three have, or do, live risky lifestyles - so their lives are things I have feared for quite often. Thank you for sharing your memories with the world ;)