I had three brothers younger than me. The youngest, my “baby” brother Gene, has a birthday today. I can still recall the day my mother revealed to me that she was going to have another baby. She said, “What would you like, a brother or sister?”My response came quickly. “I want a chimpanzee this time. I asked you for a sister the last two times and I got brothers, so this time, I’ll take a monkey.”
We were excited about the new baby. I remember my sister and I going to G. C. Murphy’s (remember that store?) whenever she got paid or had some money. We would pick out some baby item or rattle in preparation for his birth. My mother and grandmother, being frugal, were busy making kimonos with white flannel, ribbed with colored ribbon edges.
The day finally arrived and Mom went to the hospital. She came home within 24 hours, since she had no insurance, having promised the doctor she would take it easy and stay in bed. She didn’t bring home a monkey. It was another boy. Not just another boy though. Gene was special to me.
Mind you, I was fourteen when Gene was born, quite an age difference. That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy almost every moment with him. Being so much older, I had already done some babysitting alongside my sister for neighbors. I knew how to help care for a child by the time he was born.
I loved holding him, talking to him, playing with him. That summer I took him for lots of walks in his stroller, also giving me an excuse to walk by a certain boy’s house. Gene and I spent a lot of time together when he was very young. I loved teaching him things and showing him new things. He asked a lot of questions. He learned quickly and showed his intelligence. I remember him only being about three and explaining how the electricity runs through the walls in wires and when you flip the switch the lights come on.
He was a good boy most of the time but when he was without Mom and wanted her, he was terrible. I remember babysitting him when he was less than a year old. The only thing to take his mind away from being without his mother was to let him crawl up the steps. I spent a good amount of time that night standing behind him as he went up, then got carried back down to start the whole process over again.
He was a contented and calm child. One Christmas we had to actually wake him up to come down to open presents. He came down, sat in a chair, and just looked at all the gifts. He made no move without being prompted several times to get down and open the gifts. I remember decorating the tree with him beside me, doing his best to put the bulbs on the tree.
Gene was only four when I got married. The hardest part about eloping was leaving him at home and moving away to start my married life. As time went on, our relationship became much more distant. I hated this but that is how life throws curveballs sometimes.
Within the last year, we have gotten back together, not as often as I would like, but I’ll take what I can get. He is still special to me, still my baby brother, just not a little boy. He has three children of his own who are beautiful and he is a wonderful dad who always tells his children each day that he loves them.
Having him back in my life has filled a void and I hope I am closing the gap on the years we have lost. I was so close to him in his early years and I so want to know him again as an adult. Our lives are busy with family and work and all the areas of our life that pull us. I hope to be available to Gene now as I was when he was so young, helping him any way I can, being there to talk, or answer any questions. We have the same blood, yet seem so far apart. The distance can be made up if we try. We can’t get back the years we lost but we have the ones in front of us to enjoy.
Happy Birthday Gene! I love you, Baby Brother!