Monday, 1 August 2011
We've been brothers for 60 years today. As a tribute to those years I thought I'd set down sixty special moments, one for each of those years.
Then I thought NO. I need to get this written today.
Mum was a counter - counting her way through her daily shower; counting how many pegs she used at the washing line; counting the number of steps to the bus stop. A little odd but then she did work as a comptometrist, an occupation I never fully understood but there was machinery involved and .... numbers. So, following in my mother's footsteps - I've reduced the sixty to about ten.
Before I begin I'd like to say thank you for giving me an 18 month start which allowed me to have the undivided attention of mum and dad for a period. I don't remember those months but I believe there was a lot of breast time involved and I imagine lots of cuddles and bouncing on Kev's knee.
I remember sharing a hard wooden stool at a small table in a tiny kitchen for the first five years of our brotherhood. It was one of dad's masterpieces , designed in such a way such that if either of us stood up without notice, the other would be catapulted off the other end. Dad was a salesman, a handyman but maybe not a carpenter. I believe we have both inherited his enthusiasm and lack of skill.
I remember playing with you every day for what I calculate were over 5000 consecutive days - backyard footie, cricket, marbles, monopoly, made up games using the garden hose as a speedway, go-karts made of junk we scavenged from our local dump - the best playground ever invented; we even created a nine hole golf course in the tiny back yard and got away with it. Dad was very tolerant and backyards were for play not display. We learnt so much mucking about with hammers and nails, bits of timber, axles and wheels; whatever we could lay our hands on. Broken pieces of asbestos fibro became frisbees when we visited the dump. I still have a hidden fear that those asbestos toys may come back to claim me. As I get older and my lungs slow down each cough or shortness of breath reminds me of those carefree days..
I recall being crowned BODY SURFING CHAMPIONS at Currumbin beach in 1965. You and I were the only competitors and dad was the sole judge. Still we deserved the accolades.
I remember drifting off to sleep in the twin beds in the room we shared for 15 years. It had one dresser and one small wardrobe. We had simple needs. We'd talk about the meaning of life and school and girls until one of us stopped talking in mid sentence, exhausted.
Those memories of childhood are so intertwined that I sometimes find it hard to distinguish your life from mine. We were like twins.
And then at university we lived parallel lives but we were still connected by mutual friends and in listening to the same anti Vietnam speakers and sharing a set of values. And later we married two girls who we hadn't met at uni but who together had been uni friends themselves.
We shared the terrors of parenting and watched our children (your three and my two) grow up as cousins as we too grew older - watching our lives take different paths. You into the sciences and me into the arts and humanities.
It was the first time I really knew we were different. That was hard at times but we still found ways to stay connected, even into our fifties;
Where we found ourselves sailing together on Saturday afternoons on the Brisbane river in our four hundred dollar last in the fleet NS14 dingy. We talked about our kids and our lives and not the meaning of life but superannuation and the concept of life after full-time work. It was like we were fifteen again and in that bedroom. But no - we would never be that innocent again.
So sixty years later we're still good mates. We've remained friends. Something we take for granted. We've made choices along the way, sometimes consciously sometimes unconsciously which have helped make this a reality. We can thank our parents and perhaps some mysterious force for having a hand in that. For whatever reason, we did it. Not all siblings have the satisfaction of achieving that.
Now, with my eighteen months advantage, I can welcome you to your next life and assure you that, from my vantage point, there's nothing to be apprehensive about. There's a world of things out there which are yet to be discovered.
Happy birthday brother.