Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Surreal Reality

On May 12, 2013, my brother Thomas turned eighteen years old. Throughout the life of this blog you have known him as a young middle school and then a young high school student, an adorable adolescent whose thirst for exploration and penchant for goofiness so well complemented my own.

Indeed, during the majority of my blogging years, a period that coincided with his mid teens and my early twenties, we were more companions then we were mentor and student. During blizzards snowed in (when we indulged in life-threatening hot tub dips) and summer days spent at mountaintop resorts, we found ourselves comrades in tomfoolery. In many ways our childhoods coincided.

From about 2008, when we went from being enemies to being allies, I spent a great deal of time attempting to positively influence him, wondering always at what kind of man he would become. Now, seemingly a moment after he began high school as a rosy-cheeked fourteen-year-old in the fall of 2009, the manhood on which I so long meditated has arrived.

"It's crazy," he told me several nights ago. "It's just really hitting me. I can get in big-boy trouble now."

I glanced across our porch at the teenager whose shoulders were suddenly broad, whose skin was suddenly tanned, whose newly brown hair--which turned from blonde when he was about fifteen--framed a face sporting nearly black sideburns.

"You can do big-boy things, too," I said. "You can vote. You can own property. You can have your own bank accounts. You can move out."

I flashed back to a conversation he and I had had some time near the summer of 2009, when Thomas was contemplating the commencement of high school.

"I hate growing up," he'd said.  "It means I have to do things on my own, like go to college and stuff." 

"Thomas," I said. "You're thirteen. That is so far away for you. You're not even going to be a senior in high school for five years." 

"Four and a half," he corrected me. 

"Same thing," I said. "Look, enjoy being thirteen." 

"I know," he said. "'Cause when I get older I'll have to deal with a lot." 

"But enjoy being fourteen, too." 

"Yeah," he agreed adamantly, not quite understanding what I was saying. "I know."

"And fifteen. And sixteen. And seventeen. And eighteen. And on and on and on. Thomas, there's good and bad things about every age." 

Five years later, he laughed over a glass of wine. 

"I remember being a freshman and thinking that by the time I was eighteen I'd be so grown up and serious," he said. "But I'm still a giant idiot. I'm still such a kid."

"Welcome to my world."

This eighteen-year-old boy (whom I've agreed to call "medium-sized child" instead of "small child" in light of his recent birthday) will begin community college in the fall and is planning on spending the summer following his approaching graduation doing work for my father's company. I am optimistic about the balanced, intelligent person he's become, though I have understandable worries about his trajectory given the questionable path taken by our brother Powell.

"You know, I used to be so committed to the idea of taking a semester off after high school," Thomas reflected  as we sat out front. "I thought, you spend twelve years in school, then four in college, then the rest of your life working. I wanted a break. But I know how I am; one semester could become two, then three, then four. And then all this time passes and you just haven't done anything. Like Powell."

Maybe my fears are unfounded.

But I will, whatever my brother's future brings, remain available to him as a friend and guide, to whatever degree he wants me. Thomas's childhood is over. The extent to which he decides to include me now depends, I suppose, on how well I did my job when he still needed me to do it.