When you are the baby in the family there are certain things that are a given. You will be spoiled, you will learn to enjoy being the center of attention, and you will benefit for having your parents broken in by your older siblings long before you reach the age of rebellion. As the youngest of 4 kids in the 20 Prospect Clan I can confess to all three.
My big bruddah was the oldest of the siblings, a full 10 years older than I was. My sisters followed quickly afterward, so that in all the photos of them as children, they are always lined up 1-2-3. I was born seven years after my next closest sibling. Not only was I the youngest, I was the youngest by a long shot.
Being the spoiled brat had its privileges, but it also had its drawbacks. As much as I basked in the attention of my parents, what I craved the most was the attention of my siblings. When I was five years old and just entering school, they were already into their middle and high school years. By the time I was in 7th grade, they were out of the house. And so the latter half of my youth was spent as an only child, and I must admit, the spoiling only got worse.
Big Bruddah went off to college when I entered the 3rd grade. He had been accepted at the University of Notre Dame, which as a catholic household, was almost like having a priest in the family. The eight hour drives out to visit him over parent’s weekend were always the highlight of my fall. Not only did I get to go to a football game, but I also got to spend the night with him in his dorm. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to be a 4th grader, and staying in a bunk bed, in an old gothic dormitory, knowing that ND defensive end Willie Fry (my hero at the time) was living in the same building. Late at night, as the streetlights cast long shadows across the room, I lay awake wondering if the ghost of Rockne or the Gipper were wandering the campus.
He eventually moved off of campus, into a party house, and after a year of living the lifestyle of the late 70’s college kid, dropped out to hitchhike around the country and find himself. Thankfully, he never found himself in a ditch. But the stories of what he did I can only imagine. They weren’t fit for the ears of a 12 year old when he made it back to Batavia for holidays.
My sister’s never strayed as far or as wide as he did. So even though they didn’t live at home, they were still a constant presence in my life. But Big Bruddah was always an enigma. He came and went with the wind, and would disappear for months on end without a phone call home to his worried mother. When he did show up on our doorstep, he usually had something cool to share that he left behind when he went off again.
By the time I hit High School, he had pretty much settled into Idaho Springs Colorado, working at the Buffalo Bar. Then one evening the phone rang, and he announced that he had met a girl, moved to Long Island, and was now engaged. He would be in the same state once again, but just like Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle it was now my turn to be too busy for him.
While he was raising a family, going to school at night, and working long hours, I was completely absorbed in my own adolescent adventures. By the time my nephews were born, I was off to college, and then off traveling the country on my own. And now that his kids are grown, mine are in the midst of tweenage years, and I find myself busier than ever. It seems like fate has always conspired to keep us far apart.
The times we have together are still few and far between, but I treasure them for what they are. When he was in town visiting this summer, I was happy that we could go to a baseball game together, with 20 Prospect Jr. It’s funny, but our first trip to a baseball game had to wait until we were in our 40’s and 50’s respectively.
I bring it up because one of my fondest memories of bring a child involves both my Big Bruddah, and baseball. I must have been about 3 or 4 at the time. It was a hot midsummer day, and all the kids in the neighborhood were off somewhere with their families, and unable to play. There was nothing happening on Prospect Avenue but the buzz of the locusts, and the occasional rustle of the maple trees. I was bored and lonely, and wandering around the house, trying to find something to do, when my Big Bruddah jumped out from around a corner, holding a Wiffle ball and a Wiffle ball bat, and asked “Do you want to play?”
It was a simple little moment, in a lifetime of moments, and one that I am sure was forgotten as soon as it wa over. But it has always stuck with me, because of the wonderful joy and excitement of having my Big Bruddah ask ME, to play with HIM. For a 4 year old kid, that was about all you could ever hope for.
So Bug Bruddah, thanks for asking me to play ball one afternoon 38 years ago. We don’t ever say it, but I loved you then, as much as I love you today. Maybe someday our lives will finally revolve around the same sun, and we can have another game.
Happy Birthday Big Bruddah!