We’re at our family picnic, and for the millionth time my brother cracks an aside about how I tortured him when we were kids. And for the millionth time, there’s a pause and the conversation veers to another topic.
He almost always inserts this half-century-old childhood bugaboo into our adult conversations. I’m 59, my brother is four years younger than I. We see each other two or three times a year.
You’re wondering, no doubt, what sort of bully tactics I deployed during our Wonder Bread years.
Well, I jumped from behind a door and frightened him (and Grandma. Sorry, Grandma) so badly that he fell onto a throw rug, churned his legs furiously, causing him to spin like a pinwheel. (I laughed till my tummy hurt.)
One time I held my palm under his nose. “Smell this.” He inhaled black pepper, which does cause one to sneeze. A lot. There were more pranks. Those are the two doozies I remember.
I laughed at him when minor misfortunes beset him…such as the mosquito bites that swelled his hand into a balloon and the short-lived stuttering attack when our youngest brother was born. Stuff like that is hilarious when you’re nine and your little brother is five.
The day after the family picnic, I called him. “Will you forgive me for being mean to you when we were growing up?”
He cackles like a tropical bird. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I’m serious.”
“Oh, I’m just being funny,” he says.
“It’s not funny to me.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he says.
“It matters to me.” And obviously it matters to you or you wouldn’t bring it up every time we get together! That’s what I’m thinking. What I said is psycho-gobbledygook: “I want you to be able to not have my teasing from the past be part of your present.”
“OK. I forgive you.”
If he brings it up again, I’m gonna drop a mud-filled balloon on his head. (Just kidding!)