When your younger brother turns 50…

My brother Randy as a baby, 1964My younger brother Randy is turning 50. Out of all the things that can make a person feel old, this is up there with your child graduating high school or your doctor telling you that your persistent pain “is typical for someone of your age.”

But there are a lot of good things about having a younger brother turn 50.

A younger brother can fill in the gaps in our family stories. There are times Randy will tell a story about our past, and I would say, “I forgot about that.” And I would do the same for him. We tend to forget things when we get older, or become too selective or overly sentimental about what we do remember. Having a younger brother helps us remember our past more faithfully.

A younger brother can help us come to terms with our parents. Both of our parents have passed away, and we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on who they were and how they raised us. Our mom’s reputation held up a lot better than our dad’s. Both of them had an influence on who we are and the type of decisions we made in our lives.

More importantly, a younger brother can help us understand ourselves. Randy is different from me in a lot of ways, but I’m amazed in how similar we both are. We both went into writing, balancing our day jobs with our creative pursuits. We both have a deep connection with our hometown, even though we moved away from it. We even have similar looks and similar sounding voices. In a number of ways, I can see myself in him. In seeing what he’s been through, I can see the forces that shaped me.

Now, we venture into our fifties together, facing the challenges of getting older, sharing the same worries about our family’s medical history, and trying not to sound like old farts even though we can’t identify most popular TV and movie stars and believe today’s music isn’t as good as what we listened to in the eighties.

As we grow older, our appreciation grows for the family we have and the old friends we’ve kept. We gain a greater perspective. Squabbles that seemed so important decades ago no longer matter. Differences of opinion don’t seem as great. Petty jealousies seem truly petty. We know time is fleeting, and we must value the people who are close to us while we still can.

Of all the bonds we have, family is the most important. Our family members know us the most. They’ve seen us at our best and our worst. They remember what we have forgotten or tried to forget. They suffered where we suffered, and triumphed where we triumphed. We have a bond with them that lasts for life. As we grow older, we come to appreciate how important that bond is.

In that spirit, Happy Birthday, Randy.