Let's face it, there's no way I can recall Bill's arrival. Yesterday I was inspired to put in to words all the memories that I had stored and associated with Hans' birth. As soon as I hit the "publish" button it dawned on me that I'd have less than 24 hours to give my other brother equal air time. The problem with having two really good looking, talented, sweet and funny brothers is that writing about all their gifts and skills, humorous episodes and wild adventures can be a huge undertaking.
Once upon a time, June 11th, 1969, my brother Bill was born. I wasn't there. I was really young, like two and half. Okay, but I have seen the pictures, so I can say that Bill was a full cheeked cutie, with rose bud lips and an expression that read, "let's have some fun." Now we can fast forward to my first memory of Mr. Bill. We are living on "A" Street, in a Valley with blazing Summers, and Bill is in a diaper, standing in overgrown grass and hosing anything that moves. He has the crazed expression of delight and power that comes from possessing the garden hose and making grown people nervous.
Our childhoods, Bill's, Hans' and mine, were largely influenced by two circumstances: Divorce and the '70s. Enough said. Anyway, I remember that we did a lot to keep ourselves busy and fed, and amused. Our Mom went back to school and so we spent many hours occupying ourselves on two different college campuses. From very early on Bill's natural athletic skills were a resource to us. He must have been six or seven years old and he knew how to play pool. The community college had a rec room we would hang out in and play pool. The object was to lure some sympathetic student to agree to play little Billy in a game of eight ball. Hans and I would hang back, young and innocent. Bill's talent would draw a crowd and then betting, and by the time students were returning to their classes, we would be heading to the cafeteria with Bill's won cash. Donuts, anyone?
Mom has always been Bill's greatest fan; rain or shine she was at every game, every event. He ran, swam, cycled, played basketball, racquet ball, soccer, baseball, tennis, golf and he fenced too. She was always there to cheer any of us to the finish line or the end zone. I remember one soccer match my Mom was so absorbed that she wouldn't take her eyes off the players on the field. "Which one is Billy?" A friend asked. Mom didn't look away, but answered proudly "He's the one in blue." As though he were the only one playing. And Bill was good. Good at every sport, every game; not that it would have mattered to our Mom, because she was always proud.
I remember that we had some good fights and squabbles, and there was even a fair measure of blackmail, but we never failed to look out for each other in the face of outsiders. So most days and most of the time we three were good friends. We endured the politics of families and the sides they took in our parents' divorce, we traveled to foreign lands, and stood our ground against the playground bullies, here and abroad. What makes it all a pleasure to recall is the laughter. We laughed a lot, at ourselves and our antics, at the things Hans would make up, and the pranks Bill would pull.
In student housing Bill and Hans (they were 12 and 10 years old) figured out that the neighbors had cable television. They rigged a mirror on a pole,so they could watch the neighbor's TV from out their bedroom window and in to the neighbor's window. Before that ingenious set up, Bill was the one who knew the best way to hold the twisted coat hanger on our television so we could receive the wavy, static, black and white annual airing of The Wizard of Oz. Bill was our home wizard for clever repairs and adaptations. He knew the function of every tool in his Dad's tool box and before he could even walk he would loosen the screws on the legs of the kitchen table.
I have two brothers, and I admire them both. I love them for their humor, for their strength and for their weaknesses. I love them the way our mother loves us; unconditionally. I love my brothers with protective caring and sentimental affection. Bill is a diplomat of compassion through laughter. He leads with his heart, and he never fails to make things work.