Monday, January 28, 2013

Big Brothers

When you're young, big brothers can be a real pain. Sometimes, they continue to be a pain as you grow older. If you're lucky, the relationship changes.

Mine is turning 60 in February. As a surprise gift, his own family is compiling a book of all the favorite memories about him offered by friends and family alike. Naturally, I was tempted to give him some payback by contributing a particularly embarrassing or humiliating memory, but I resisted. Instead, I offered this:

All my less pleasant memories of Jeff's "older brother"-style mistreatment and teasing (including when he threatened to come into my walk-in closet in our attic bedroom in Bethesda to see me in my new training bra) were shoved to the back of my mind the day I rolled his brand new "used" car on a mountain canyon road and witnessed his reaction.

He had been bragging about his sporty, yellow Fiat, and had even let his best friend drive it while we were up in the canyon on a student ward activity. I had been driving for over a year by then, having had to wait to get my driver's license at BYU since I wasn't about to learn in Beirut. When I asked him if I could have a turn driving it, he hesitated a moment and then gave his assent. Fortunately, his best friend got out of the car at that point and it was only the two of us. The problem was, it was a stick shift, and I had never driven one before. When he learned that, he almost changed his mind, but I convinced him that I'd paid attention as his friend had driven and he could quickly show me the basics.

To make a long story short, by the time I thought I was getting the hang of it, I saw we were approaching the sharp curve that had given his friend pause. Jeff told me to slow down for the curve and, thinking I could do that by down shifting, I pushed in the clutch but hesitated with the stick shift. Instead, the car sped up. Jeff yelled for me to brake and start turning, and I froze at the wheel. So he reached over and grabbed the steering wheel to get us around the curve but between the speed and the over-correction, we started to roll. I seriously thought I was going to die. Everything turned black.

When I came to, I was somehow in the back of the car (we hadn't been wearing seat belts), lying on its roof and the front passenger seat had come loose and was on top of me. I remember I was wearing a white shirt that day and while my head hurt, I didn't think anything was broken (besides the car, of course, which was totaled) but I did glance down and noticed a few red spots on my shirt. Gingerly, I reached up and felt around where my head was hurting and felt a small amount of bleeding. Nothing really serious.

It was then that I heard this wailing coming from outside the car to my right. I looked over through the car's back window and saw Jeff kneeling in the mud, wailing, "My car! My new car!" I felt awful and knew he would hate me forever. Then something unexpected happened. I watched the expression of grief on his face turn to a dawning realization of horror, and he yelled, "Tanya!" He immediately turned to the car, saw me in there, and scrambled over to ask if I was okay. I'm afraid the realization that my brother cared about me more than the car was so enjoyable that I took an extra minute to respond.

Finally, I assured him I was all right, but he seemed dubious since I wasn't emerging from the car. Somehow, he got the car seat off me and helped pull me out. We were fortunate that a car or truck (I can't remember now) came along that empty mountain road not many minutes later and was able to give us a ride back to the campground where our ward was gathered. Then Jeff, no doubt still in shock, insisted on driving me in our family's blue Chevy Impala all the way back to the BYU Health Center to make certain I was okay.

I like to think that I saw Jeff's real heart that day, not the one he layers in teasing, joking and sarcasm, but the one he relies on to magnify his Priesthood, particularly now that he is a bishop. The only difference is that today it no longer requires a life or death situation, or him going into shock.

How about you? If you have an older brother or sister, what is your favorite memory of him or her?


  1. I know. The cop who investigated the accident (and gave me a ticket, which I thought was really adding insult to injury) took one look at that totaled car and shook his head. He couldn't believe we both walked away basically unharmed. I should probably use it in one of my novels when the time and story is right.

  2. I had not one, but 2 big brothers to tease and torment the daylights out of me. Among other things they liked to steal the cherry off of my ice cream sundaes. Yet, the one closest in age was always there to talk to and to teach me things such as where to apply a knee if grabbed (thankfully I never needed that information, but you get the idea), and my late brother who, along with his wife, took Mom & I in when her fiance eloped with someone else the day before their wedding and we had no place to go.

  3. WOW I was in Provo, Utah at the time, assisting Katheryn Pardoe with her make=up to do a reading at the Wilkinson Center when I received a phone call from Jeff calling from the BYU Medical Center, just saying Oooohhh MOM, I said What? another moan Oh Mom.....finally he explained the whole situation and I was so relieved to have him tell me that neither one of them (My two oldest children) were very seriously hurt! With a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart and soul I left Katheryn Pardoe off at the Wilkinson Center (missing her performance as a reader) and rushed to the side of my Children. It was a most memorable dramatic occasion. Thanks so much Tanya for relating it in your words. Love Mom (Rita C. Parker)

  4. I like to think that we chose our oldest siblings (or were chosen to be one) before this life. That way, it's a bit easier to put up with the negative stuff and the positive things make so much sense. :D