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Growing up as one of a trio of “Golden boys” has its share of ups and downs. I am the oldest. Ben followed by two years, and Aaron by another three. It still amazes me that three individuals raised together with the same values, treated the same way by our loving parents, could turn into such different adults. These differences are what make sibling relationships, and my sibling relationships in particular, the wonderful, life-building experiences that they are.
Brotherhood is an interesting experience that is very difficult to explain in mere words; anecdotes and ideas will have to suffice. Growing up was all about Nintendo games, Legos, and various activities pertaining to swords. I cannot count the hours that the three of us spent fixated on Mario, one brother playing and the other two “kibitzing” (a Yiddish word for providing unsolicited advice). We jointly built Lego monstrosities well into my late teen years and always had something related to medieval fantasy going, be it Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering or just building swords and armor from wood and cardboard and knocking each other silly with our creations.
Ben would tell you about the psychological and physical abuse the middle child endures. It is true; poor Ben did get harassed from both sides. It didn’t help the situation that he was physically small for his age and extremely quiet. Our parents were very strict about ensuring that the violent play in which boys participate never turned into actual attempts to hurt someone, but Ben took his fair share of pummeling, “unintentional” or not. Ben was a brilliant child, with an almost frightening intellect. To this day, I still have no idea how his mind works or what he is thinking. Ben is mysterious and elusive, but approachable and understanding at the same time. Although we gravitate towards opposite ends of the political spectrum, we have a fertile common ground that allows us to interact and understand each other despite our differences.
Aaron was always the baby. Even now, as a six-foot-two inch, two-hundred-pound, football-playing behemoth, he still gets special treatment. I guess that’s repayment for a life spent wearing clothing handed down from your brothers. Aaron was a special child, and has grown into a remarkable man. He was extremely dexterous from a very young age, a skill that got him into an immense amount of trouble. He had the motor control of a three- or four-year-old child by his first birthday. I vividly remember coming downstairs in the morning to find “Iggy” (as he was called) standing on the dining room table, pouring a container of orange juice over his head. Aaron was a case study in what would happen if you gave a ten-year-old a Ferrari: too much power, not enough brains. To this day, Aaron is still by far the best athlete of the bunch. He is an actor, a singer, a dancer, a defensive linemen, a great friend, and a fantastic brother and son. In many ways, he was a protege of mine, but by this point, he has far surpassed his teacher. Perhaps I trained him too well; now he always manages to get what he wants in negotiations with me.
Brotherhood is about psychological conditioning and competition. Ben can still beat Aaron in a wrestling match despite the fifty pounds Aaron has on his older brother. I can still take them both. This established psychological dominance exists in all the sets of brother I know. There is nobody to whom I like to lose a game less than either of my brothers. Last week, Ben was sitting in a chair at a family event, most likely unaware that I had been sitting there earlier. All I did was look at him, and he sprang to his feet. Who said that respect for your elders has gone by the wayside?
Brotherhood is about teamwork. Whether you are the lawyer of the operation like me, the strategist like Ben, or the smooth-talking, brawny Aaron, each plays an essential role in the group. I loved growing up as part of this team. When the three of us prevail over another team, be it our parents or friends, there is no sweeter victory. Sometimes there are squabbles as each teammate scrambles for as much of the available resources as possible (in the form of finances, parental attention, opportunities, etc.). Only children may not have to divide anything with their siblings, but they do not have anybody with whom to enjoy sharing those things they have. The process of enjoying life and learning together is what makes brotherhood special. Having brothers who work as a team enriches and enlightens my life.
Brotherhood is about love and caring. This past fall, Aaron was seriously injured by a late hit during a football game. Words cannot express the rage and determination to protect him from harm that came over me in the wake of this incident. I felt compelled to send some friends to “talk” to the perpetrator of the act. I wisely reconsidered. The torn knee ligament that Aaron suffered will most likely end his football career, but for me, it ushered in an important realization. The well-being of my brothers is even more important to me that I ever understood before. Perhaps it is hard to fully appreciate that which you do not fear losing.
I have had considerable trouble fully communicating what my relationships with Ben and Aaron mean to me. I have been unable to find the words to convey what brotherhood is about, at its core. However, I can confidently say that my brotherhood is a product of fierce competition, incessant harassment, teamwork, and genuine love and caring. Brotherhood is an odd mosaic of feelings, ideas and connections, and varies greatly from family to family. I am lucky to have the brothers and the family that I do. However, no matter how I look at the question of siblings versus no siblings, given the available options, I would not live my life without brothers…my brothers, in particular.
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