Dude, this one's for you.
I've been meaning to do this for a long time...and then, you know, life kinda happened. But here we are now. So gather round the fire children and I'll tell you a bed time story. It is a tale part dreadful and hair raising but a tale mostly of great courage from a small hero.
The year was 1997. My parents had left for a week in Cancun, a week without their children. Oh now that I have two children of my own I can just imagine the scene as they left us behind, their hands clasped together, the two of them skipping with joy at the thought of their short bit of freedom. My brother and I , well, we were skipping with joy for reasons of our very own. Being left alone for a week meant that we could stay up as late as we wanted, eat pizza for every meal, and we definitely, most definitely were not going to clean anything up....until right before they got home that is.
This was the year I turned 17 which would have made my brother 12. I lorded my seniority over him with an iron fist, never letting him forget my place as first born and eldest. Shotgun, you say? I THINK NOT! I'M OLDER! IN THE BACK SEAT, TINY! Oh, what's that? You'd like to watch one of YOUR shows? NOT AS LONG AS I LIVE IN THIS HOUSE! I was not always a cruel sibling though. I picked him up from school, threw rocks at kids who were mean to him, and once I even let him come to my birthday party...only after he had to go and cut his head open and be a cry baby about it.
This time though, I remember us having a pretty good time. Our parents had put our dog, Gracie, in a kennel while they were gone thinking that it would mean less responsibility for us. As if we could have been and LESS responsible. So it was just Gordon and I, endless pizza, and way too much TV.
I had taken to sleeping in my parent's room while they were gone, I think it may have been another display of seniority on my part, who really knows what teenagers are thinking. My brother had been falling asleep every night on the couch to cartoons, this was perhaps the pinnacle of his young life at the time. On this particular night I was awakened by a great clap of thunder. It was loud and close, close enough to startle me awake. For some unexplained reason, my adrenaline began to rush and I was afraid. I listened for more of the storm but the night replied with silence and cicadas. This further disturbed me so I crept into the living room and woke my brother up.
"Hey. Psssst, hey, Gordon. I'm scared, will you come and stay in Mom and Dad's room with me?" I asked plaintively.
"What?" he grumbled, "No, go away, I'm not sleeping with you."
"But please, I'm scared," I pleaded.
"I said no!"
"WELL I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY, I'M CARRYING YOUR LITTLE ASS IN THERE'
And so I did. I scooped him up, young thing that he was, easily and carried him to our parents room where I put him in the bed with me and he fell fast asleep. Although I was comforted by the familiar body next to me, I still couldn't shake the sense of uneasiness I felt. I lay in the dark and listened to every tick, every breath, every rustle, and then I heard it.
Someone, or something, was prying the screen from the window and trying to get into our house to do what, I could only imagine. I leaned forward, gripped with fear, and saw in the small space of visibility between the blinds and the window, a man. He was crouched down and working furiously to get into the window. I was so consumed with fear that for a moment I could not even breathe, much less move. And then I snapped out of it long enough to shake my brother and hiss: SOMEONE IS OUTSIDE THE WINDOW RIGHT NOW TRYING TO BREAK INTO THIS HOUSE!
He sat up, transformed into a man in the blink of an eye, and said: get in the closet. I grabbed the phone and we both got into our parents large, walk in closet. As I dialed and began to speak to the operator with 911, my brother, who was TWELVE, picked up our father's 30-06 rifle, loaded it, and aimed it at the window.
Now Dear Readers, let's take a step back in time for a moment, shall we? Let me tell you about my brother as an even smaller child. Sure, he liked cars and trucks and playing in the mud like most little boys, but what he really, really liked to play most of all was heroes. He had his favorites: David, slaying the great Goliath, and of course there were the Ninja Turtles, but his best, his all time favorite, his gold standard of heroes was Superman. Sure, every kid wants to be a hero. Every little boy dreams of saving the day, but how many have done it? How many could pick up that gun that weighed more than they did and point in the face of danger and say: BRING IT! My brother, that's who.
As I sat in that closet, on the phone with the 911 operator and watched my brother act with such great courage, time seemed to stand still. The voice of the operator faded into a tinny echo in my ear and I remember feeling a great sense of calm come over me. He's got this I thought to myself, he's really, really got this. He will kill that man if he steps foot in this house, and I feel good about that.
I wonder what it must have felt like to have been on the other side of that window? One minute you're down for a little late night raping and pillaging and then the next thing you know, you're staring up the long, cold barrel of a gun that could blow you seven different ways into next week. And then when summon the strength to glance up to see just who's staking claim on your life, you meet they eyes and face of a child. A child with the heart of a lion and a look on his face that says, oh yes, I WILL kill you...now come on in here, I DARE you.
Needless to say, the guy fled...probably because he needed to change his underwear after that. I know I did, I kid, I kid. It took the police over 20 minutes to get to our house because they were all probably at Dunkin Donuts. When they finally got there and had a look around, they found our screen a few dozen feet away from our house, twisted and broken. They suggested we spend the night with a friend (which we gladly did) and then they were gone.
It all seemed to happen with great speed and so slowly, if that even makes any sense. We lived. He saved us. My brother, not the police. And that night something changed. Even though I was still older, he was the bigger one now. I have learned time and time again that it is in our darkest hours that we discover the stuff of which we are made. And it is in the trials and difficulties of life that you can observe what others are made of. I have often been disappointed by others in tough times, but in those few harrowing moments in the closet, I realized that I would never have to be afraid if my brother was around. In the words of Mark Twain: it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Even though I still like to pick on him and call him names, I have a great reservoir of respect for my brother, because, as I like to say to him: Ya got moxie, Kid.
Well children, did you like that story? Good! Now let's review the lessons we learned tonight, shall we?
1) Never leave your children unattended and run away to a foreign country with spotty phone service.
2) If you MUST leave said children alone, by all means, leave the dog at home.
3) The second amendment is COOL!
4) Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people, and we WILL kill you if you try to break into our house...or car...or backpack.
5) I am most definitely NOT a pacifist.
*I do realize that this post may incite some people's fear of guns. I would just like to say, for the record, that my brother and I grew up around guns. We were taught that they were not toys and to respect them and only use them for their specific purposes, which in my family happened to be hunting. There was never an incident when they were used as toys or in an inappropriate manner. I believe it is ignorance and irresponsibility that causes accidents. That being said, Jeremy and I will teach both of our daughters how to care for and use them...when the time is right of course.