On a cheerfully bright Saturday in May 1992, three people queued up to criticize me. My eldest sister sounded like she was screaming, but that was her just regular speaking voice. My second eldest sister’s words were a quiet tone worse than a shout. My older brother laughed at me for a solid minute before expressing the same thing as our sisters.
“I can’t believe you did that! You’re such a brat. I hope Mom and Dad punish you good!”
“That” was going on a date. Our parents recently modified their “no dating until you’re 18” rule to “until you finish high school.” I felt it was unreasonable, and flouted the rule for two years. The previous night, I made the mistake of being caught.
My sisters were met with murmured apologies. My older brother received mostly silence, lest he turn as mean as the girls. The phone rang once more as soon as I placed the handset on the receiver. I nervously picked up.
“It’s your big brother.”
My eldest brother always sounds like he’s about to close a huge business deal. I grew up hearing it bear only good tidings: “Let’s see who can eat more Big Macs” or “I got you the sea monkeys Mom and Dad said you can’t have.”
That afternoon, he said, “I heard what happened.”
I didn’t care about my other siblings’ opinions. They rarely had anything nice to say, so it was easy to ignore them. Chuck was different. He had always been on my side, the kind of big brother that usually exists only in stories and sitcoms. It seemed that was going to change.
Did he hear my voice hitch? Maybe he never intended to scold me. He simply asked, “You’re okay?”
“That’s all I wanted to know.”
He hung up as I was stammering out goodbye. As always, he said what was needed, and took care of things. With just a few words he did what he always did: reminded me I have a brother who is trustworthy, and is always on my side.