Last week my mother asked me to update the photographs she has hanging in her living room. Each of her children is represented by a photo collage depicting the years from childhood to the present. Except as of last week, none of the photos were more "present" than 2002. So my job was to add current family shots, as well as shots of all the grandkids who've come along since the last update. This task was a lot of fun; I had the chance to pore over lots of amusing photos and reminisce about family adventures. But it was also difficult because adding new pictures meant I had to replace some that were already there. Tricky stuff.
This task was particularly hard for my brother Sugar Mack's* collage. For one, his kids are too stinking cute. (See evidence here and here and here and here.) There's no way I could take out any of their photos. The shots of his sweet wife, Spanky Fish*, were all keepers too. And all the pictures of Sugar Mack by himself were perfect representations of his personality: There he is, putting the barber into barbershop, hamming it up at a Christmas concert, playing the piano while friends and family sing along. He's this funny, musical, show-stealing guy who makes every get-together more festive. And while the ultimate winner (?) of our family's sibling silly contest may be in dispute (*cough*Harvey*cough*), I don't think anyone would argue that Sugar Mack is the most likely to put the silliness to music.
And on top of just being fun to be around, Mack is the kind of guy every kid wants for a big brother--the guy who'll stick up to bullies, give good advice, and even tell you to shape up when you need it. I recall one instance when I was 12 or 13 and I wanted to borrow something from him. He said I could use it as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, if I'd remember to treat my younger siblings with the same courtesy. I won't horrify you with details, but you should know that at the time, "courtesy" did not typify my relationship with my younger siblings. Sugar Mack was an amazing example in that regard. Where some of the rest of us had trouble getting along, he was a peacemaker.
But he ain't a wimp. Take the time several years ago when I'd been involved in a minor car accident that turned out to be a major hassle. I'd been rear-ended, and there was no dispute about who was at fault. But the other driver's insurance company still balked about providing me a rental car while my car was in for repairs. When I'd argued all I could, and tears of frustration started to spill, Mack took the phone and calmly asked "is there a problem," in a way that made it clear to the guy on the phone that if there was (a problem, that is) he'd better find a way to solve it quick. It worked. Mack took me to pick up the rental car the next morning.
He's rescued me many times before and since--from the time I passed out after a long day at Education Week to the months I stayed at his house while I figured out what I was doing with my life. He's the guy you go to for help when things are bad, and for laughs when things are good. (And Mom has the pictures to prove it!) Like I said, he's the big brother you always wanted. And I sure am glad he's mine.
I love you Sugar Mack! Happy Birthday!
*Names have been changed.