When I was a kid I didn’t know how to play. I would be mean. I would tease my brothers and sisters and I would bully them. It was probably because I was small and couldn’t beat up the kids my own age. Either way and for whatever reason I didn’t know how to play.
My parents handled this in different ways. My mother would tell other kids and their parents when we went to visit, “Don’t play with Michael. He doesn’t know how to play. It was her way of making sure I didn’t tease or bully someone else’s child during our visit.
My father was different. I can remember him constantly telling my little brother Joey not to put up with my teasing and bullying. He would say, “Pick up something and hit him in his head. Fight back.”
For a long time, Joey would not fight back. But one day he did. One day he picked up a brick and hit me in the head like dad had said. After that I quit picking on Joey. Like most bullies I looked for someone that wouldn’t fight back.
Joey learned a valuable lesson that day. If you don’t fight back life and people will take advantage of you. If you don’t fight back you will always be the one picked on. If you don’t fight back things can’t possibly go your way.
As a big brother I have proudly watched my little brother Joey fight back. (And I wisely learned to quit fighting with him decades ago.)
When he went to college things didn’t always go his way. I don’t know or remember the details and somethings are not mine to tell, but I know things were rough enough for him that he came to stay with me in Joplin, Mo. When he left me, I know he tried to go stay with our grandfather in California but that didn’t work, and I know he ended up back at home.
Well, our dad had had enough of his kids coming back home and when it was Joey’s turn he had thirty days to get a job and get out. He didn’t get a job. He ended up going into the army.
I wasn’t happy about Joey going into the service because during my time that meant war and death. I told him to make it Uncle Sugar not Uncle Sam. Make the army work for you.
He did just that. Life had not worked at college and at home, but Joey fought back. He hit life in the head with a brick.
He was an outstanding soldier. He won award after award. He was even promoted to the rank of sergeant major. He even ended his career in the Quartermaster Hall of Fame. He couldn’t have done any better. He fought back.
In high school Joey had been just an average student. Well average with grades. He was always the best looking and naturally gifted athlete of all my father’s sons. So, he wasn’t average in the “streets”.
I had been the one who made all A’s. I had been the one who struggled to be an athlete. I was even the one who excelled at ROTC. But Joey fought back.
When I went to my fiftieth high school reunion, it was Joey’s picture that was on the school’s hall of fame. He was the only non-commissioned officer on the wall in the midst of a slew of generals. But he stood out. He had continued to fight.
As adults my brothers and sisters and I have always lived a part in other cities. So, we’re not always aware of each other’s accomplishments. I’m sure we also look at each other as family and not as anyone special.
But with my brother Joey its different. We are all aware of his accomplishments. We are all aware of how he carries himself. He is full of character and integrity.
I know that I am extremely proud of him. I’m glad he hit me in the head with that brick. I’m glad he learned how to stand up for himself. I’m glad that throughout his life he has fought back.
But most of all, I’m really glad he is my brother and that I learned how to play.
Love ya man.