Gug. Yard Ape. Officer Friendly. Diego. Commander. Just a few of the epithets applied to my older brother over the years. Some of them he's earned. Others he just arrived at with little or no warning. He's the one I look up to, and not just because he's bigger than me. He's the one who gave me Beatles records and an appreciation for oysters. He was there at every rite of passage, letting me know that even though I came through preschool just fine, I could expect Kindergarten to be no walk in the park. And when I finally felt comfortable in junior high, he let me know that high school would be a great, glowing boil on the neck of my life. He was right, some of the time, and I could never say he didn't warn me.
He's also the guy who rallied us all together when my dad died. He sorted through the mounds of paper and debris to do the thing that my father never bothered to do: prepare for the inevitable. He's the go-to guy. He can handle it. I've always admired the way he wades through things that would make me stop and whine. Like the hike we took back when we were kids, searching for his lost wallet. I wanted to go along. I wanted to be right there, but I also wanted to sit down in the middle of the dirt road, finish my canteen, and wait for someone to come and carry us out of the wilderness. He wasn't going to let that happen. We were on a mission, and he kept me going, until we had walked for the better part of the day, stopping long enough to eat our lunches and talk about the path we were on. Then we packed up and headed on down the road. It was that same force that helped me make it to the top of Longs Peak. He kept a steady pace, up past fourteen thousand feet to the summit. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see what he saw: the view from the top. I remember crawling the last hundred yards or so, but I wanted to be there. With my brother.
Happy Birthday to you.