Sixty years ago today, on November 4, 1954, I became an older brother. I know that sounds weird to say, but that’s exactly what happened. Doug, the second of three children who were born to our parents, entered the world 6 decades ago. I was only 21 months old at the time, but let’s face it – I was the oldest child and for the first almost two years of my life, I didn’t have to share my parents with anyone! I strongly suspect that if you aren’t an oldest child yourself, you probably have never thought about the magnitude of that change to a very young person.
Oldest kids are raised by their parents to be the “perfect” child – at least for the first short time of their lives. Then reality sets in and parents realize that there isn’t any such thing as a “perfect” child. When younger siblings come along, it is usually a pretty big adjustment. For example, it is oldest children who are the first to enter school, eventually have curfews and they are the ones who test the boundaries of their parents’ patience. In a way, that makes it easier for younger children as they come along. They aren’t usually held to the same high standards of conduct and to be quite honest, there was a little bit of jealousy when Doug came along.
Since we are so close in age, we shared similar friends and childhood memories. For a number of years, when we were younger, we went our own ways. Not that there was anything wrong between us, but we are quite different and life just got in the way. I ended up in the business world and Doug entered the medical profession, as a surgeon and healer. We have each made our own mark in our respective professions. I honestly thought that Doug had an easier childhood than I did. But in all sincerity, he also pushed Dad to extremes that I didn’t dare try. Doug was always more fearless than I was. And Mom used to say that he reminded her of her own father – I think that got him points growing up.
I guess it didn’t help that Janet and I moved to Carmel, north of Indianapolis, while Doug starting practicing medicine in Morris, IL, southwest of Chicago. He also provided the primary care of our mother in her final years. But since Mom’s passing, Doug and I have rekindled our closer friendship and our brotherhood. While we don’t see each other as often as either of us would like, we are both aware that our relationship is very special and we both work to protect it.
In our case, we talk by phone on a regular basis – and our shared memories are part of the bond that binds us together. As we enter our sixties, it is difficult to believe that we have achieved this milestone. It seems like just yesterday that we were little kids dressed up in Halloween costumes or attending Cub Scouts together where Mom was a Den Mother for Doug’s den. Today, we lean on each other for advice in our various investments and when we want to process some opportunity.
We also golf, infrequently, and share our successes as well as our failures. It is strange, however, for two people who have grown up so differently to still have things that hold their relationship together, in addition to the fact that they are blood. I’m glad that we have each other. The verse for this evening is from the book of Genesis. It occurs near the front of the Bible – the story of the people of God. Gen. 4:9, “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
This story happened when Cain killed Abel and tried to keep it a secret. But God already knew the heart of Cain and aside from the repercussions that happened, Cain did ask a great question. And the answer to it is quite simple – Yes, I am my brother’s keeper. That’s the whole idea of family. My encouragement this evening is that God always wishes for us to take care of one another – especially family. My prayer is that you will invest in your family relationships and make sure that you do all you can do to make sure that you are improving the quality of life for all God’s children. Happy Birthday, Doug, and to the rest of you, have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace..