Anatomy of a Storyteller: Brother Tom

            Glen has no animosity toward his brother to this day, and he is sure the feeling is mutual.  Sadly, they are miles apart, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  That was by design, a matter of nurture, not nature.

            On the one hand, Brother Tom surely did not choose to be a colicky baby.  He was probably a miserable two-year-old.   Certainly he teased his younger brother and the younger one responded like most younger brothers respond – by hitting, which only got Glen in trouble.  And the boys fought sometimes, though it was never mean-spirited.  Even back then there was no animosity.  But they were never close in any real sense.  They were not allowed to be close.  They were only fifteen and a half months apart in age, but they generally lived separate lives.

            All Glen could imagine was his Mother and her sister must have had a terrible sibling rivalry because she was determined that her children would not suffer the same.  Brother Tom had friends and Glen was not allowed to be friends with the same kids.  Brother Tom also developed interests, and Glen was not allowed to have the same interests.  Yes, they both studied the keyboard when young, but after a certain point, Tom became the musician and Glen was allowed to play the drums.

            Sadly, Glen had a real interest and talent at composition.  The few pieces he wrote for theatrical productions and a mediocre band he played with in High School were received very well.  But that was not to be allowed.  Brother Tom was the musician.  Once, when Glen was admittedly playing the same passage over and over because he was trying to nuance the melody and grasp the right words for the song, Father came barreling down the stairs with two words:

            “Shut up!”

            Glen never really wrote much music after that and eventually gave it up altogether.

            Brother Tom, whose personality was to give the grown-ups exactly what they wanted to curry favor, not to mention good grades, decided early on to follow in Father’s footsteps.  He took up writing and reporting and got every encouragement.  He wrote for the local paper in high school, a job that Mother’s networking skills procured.  He wrote for a magazine connected to Father’s shop while in college.  By the time he left college and took a newspaper job in a far away land, he had a better resume than people ten years in the business.

            Glen, on the other hand, cursed with a terrific imagination and an intensely creative soul, was not allowed to write.  All the same, he wrote a play in High School, and a musical after High School.  He wrote fantastic stories, but they were never any good as far as his parents were concerned.  They all stunk, and his parents were not interested in those sorts of fictions, and he felt crushed.  For years he told great stories to friends and others, but he had a terribly hard time writing them down.  Brother Tom was the writer, after all.

            Then there was sport.  Glen was the more athletic, though he never knew it.  They both played soccer because of the year they spent abroad when they were young.  That could not be helped.  They learned to play “Futball” at that one room schoolhouse in Spain.  But when Brother Tom was a senior and Glen was a junior, it looked like they both might get on the varsity squad.  When the preseason was over, however, Glen found himself demoted back to junior varsity, and without explanation.

            Glen played his heart out for the JV coach, and from the wing and sometimes halfback, he had the most assists and was tied in number of goals for a team that went 11-5.  Meanwhile, the varsity squad went 13-3, and that was good enough to make the state tournament.  For that tournament, the varsity coach was allowed to call up several players from the junior varsity squad.  Curiously, Glen’s back-up on the wing (when he went to halfback) got the call.  Glen did not.  He went to the games and cheered the team on, and you know they won the state tournament that year.  Glen was left out of it all, and after some serious soul searching, he concluded he was not as good as he thought he was.  The following year, his team reverted back to the more usual record of 9-7.  It was a winning record, but nothing special.

            Years later, when Glen was thirty-something, his wife took a one-year teaching position and ran into his old junior varsity coach.  The man recognized the last name right away.  Glen’s wife explained that she was Glen’s wife, not Tom’s, as she always had to explain.  He said he knew.  He remembered Glen.  Glen was one of the best soccer players he ever coached.  It was a shame Glen’s mother went to the varsity coach and had him removed from the varsity team.  And then she went again to be sure he stayed off the team when they made the state tournament.  She was afraid it would be too traumatic for Brother Tom to have him there.  The JV coach wondered why it did not bother the woman how traumatic it might be for Glen.

            To be sure, Glen could have played soccer in college, and maybe beyond, but by then he was convinced that he was not that good and so he did not bother.  By the time he was thirty-something and found out differently, it was too late.


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