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His Brother's Keeper
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:102:height=267,width=200]]REFLECTIONS NO. 5
HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER
When we were growing up together, I often thought my older brother Nick was trying to kill me. It wasn’t anything big – well, I suppose shooting an arrow in my head was sort of big. I must have been about four or five, which meant Nick was about five or six (his birthday is March 11, 1955 and mine is October 23, 1956). I was walking down the corridor at our home when I felt a thud in the back of my head. I ran crying to my mother. She found a toy arrow dangling from the back, not having penetrated very deeply. Nick, ingeniously, had removed the rubber suction-cup tip from a toy arrow and had sharpened it in a pencil sharpener. That was remarkable by itself. The fact that he could hit the back of my head using a bow and arrow and get the arrow to penetrate was even more remarkable still.
He made up for such murderous attempts years later, in 1987, when we were in Mexico together and he saved me from drowning. Less dramatically, but more pointedly, was the “fan incident.” I can’t stand the heat. So of course, I went to Mexico with Nick and his family and stayed in a cinder block house that seemed to bake at night. Nick and I slept in the same room on two small cots, side by side, with an oscillating fan alternating between the two of us. One night, as I lay there in bed, sweltering, I selfishly thought, “I would be cooler if the fan were just pointed at me the whole time.” Following that reasoning, I then thought, “If I were in bed with Nick, I could put the fan on both of us for the whole time.” Thinking myself very clever, I stopped the fan’s oscillations and aimed it at the sleeping Nick. I began to climb into his tiny cot with him, when he suddenly awoke. “What are you doing?” he said. I explained my theory to him. Nick made a face. “It won’t cool us down! We’ll get even warmer because of our shared body heat! Now, go back to your cot and go to sleep!’
I sighed, and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, I found out why. To my surprise, the fan was not oscillating, anymore. It was pointed directly at me. Nick always insisted he did this to keep me from trying any more crazy ideas, but to me, it was just part of the older brother paradox: sometimes he’s trying to kill you, but the rest of the time, he’s there to save your life.
July 31, 2010