“Give him time, sweetheart. It may take a few more years. I know this sounds crazy, but someday he’ll be one of your best friends.”
I then throw in a few stories, attempting to back up my ridiculous claim that my teenage daughter and her younger brother might one day be friends.
I would fling myself onto my parents’ bed, sobbing, “I hate him! He’s so mean to me! Why did I have to get him for a brother?” I vacillated between wishing him mostly dead and wishing him entirely dead.
For good reason.
Dave (18 months older), my sister Debbie (21 months younger) and I once stayed up late watching the TV version of “Psycho,” where the hotel proprietor dresses up as his mom – whom he has previously murdered – and disposes of hotel guests with a kitchen knife. The uplifting movie petrified us beyond words, so my sister and I decided to sleep in the living room when it was over.
Minutes later, we heard a scream. My mom had gotten out of bed, walked into the hallway, and come face-to-face with Dave dressed as a middle-aged woman wearing a wig, nightgown, and carrying a kitchen knife. But instead of frightening his scardey-cat sisters into a state of irreversible shock, Dave nearly gave his poor mom a heart attack.
Debbie and I spent an entire month plotting revenge but gave up. Some things simply cannot be outdone.
The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were our favorite TV shows. If Dave walked into the room during one of those shows, we would scramble to our positions in front of the TV, arms out, risking life and several limbs to prevent him from changing the channel. Dave’s advantage was momentum, which he was able to gather while sprinting the full length of the room. Being robbed of so many sappy endings was the ultimate injustice. Dave figured he was doing us a favor. Which he probably was but still.
Big Jerk and Huge Retard were the meanest names I could think of, and I reserved them for Dave. But when he actually did something nice like invite me to join him and some friends for lunch at the beginning of high school, I would feel a twinge of guilt for the awful name-calling.
Thanks to Dave, the guilt never lasted long.
I was at Dave’s complete mercy when it came to getting a ride to school, was always ready to leave before he was and would watch in utter frustration as he put his shoes on very slowly just because.
Until one morning. For the first and only time in history, Dave was ready before me. He pulled the car into the street and leaned on the horn. Worried about annoying the neighbors, which Dave clearly wasn’t, I ran to the car and yanked the door open – just in time for Dave to drive forward a few yards. Bare feet flapping on the concrete, I tried unsuccessfully to jump into the moving car.
He stopped briefly, but drove forward again – erasing any doubt as to whether the driving and stopping had been due to driver error.
Dave then stepped on the gas for the third time, making the unfortunate mistake of pushing his luck. The right front tire, which had been creeping perilously close to me, rolled smack dab over the top of my left foot. Lucky for both of us – for entirely different reasons – no bones were broken, the scratches and bruises weren’t even too bad. But bones could have been broken, the scratches and bruises could have been very bad. And Dave knew it.
I was treated with caution and deference for several weeks after the foot incident. Dave even bought me donuts on the way to school. Honestly, the caution and deference started to get on my nerves. But never the donuts.
Things gradually began to change. We started talking. We hung out with each others’ friends. He helped me with math, even though I couldn’t reciprocate. I asked for his thumbs up or down on outfits. We went on group dates. I cried and he did what he could to make it better.
At some point, I no longer wished him entirely dead. Mostly dead on occasion, but never entirely anymore.
Immediately after Dave graduated from high school, he left for an out-of-state summer job. I still had a few days of school left. A friend saw me in the hall and asked, “So, do you miss Dave?”
I surprised myself by bursting into tears. It occurred to me – probably for the first time – that it wasn’t just my brother who had moved away. It was one of my best friends.
And I really missed him.
My daughter listens to my stories. But then she sighs, rolls her eyes, and says, “Whatever, Mom. That’s never going to happen with us.”
I guess I’ll have to give her some time.