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O Brother, How Art Thou?...


I still remember that day very clearly.

I was 8 years old. Both my parents worked, so my after-school time was always spent at my grandmother's house. She'd take care of me until one of them picked me up, usually early in the evening and after dark.

On this day, it was raining. I think I was plopped down in front of the television set, maybe watching Nickelodeon (breaking the grandmother TV stereotype, my grandma had cable television during my formative years. It about made my childhood.). From the front stoop, where the green screen door/wood hybrid has always swung and swings to this day, my parents burst in. They were huddling from the rain, and from my Indian-style perspective on the floor, they were huge, tall, larger than life. I suppose they always will be; age and growth to a height that towers above them has never changed that.

They were excited, giddy, grinning.

They granted me my wish.

I was an only child. I wanted a brother or a sister.

They told me he was on his way.


You would think that after so many years, I'd have been grateful, right? Instead, I remember the first ten years of my brother's life being full of slammed doors as I was constantly throwing him out of my room. At some point, he must have told a funny joke, because my friends started liking him and all of a sudden it was cool to have P.J. around.

My friends in high school adored my brother. A Myth of P.J. began to form that he was smarter than all of us put together (a theory that has never been disproven) and along with about 1,324 inside jokes that we had, the "Omar's Brother as Super Genius" was one of our favorites.

P.J. was pretty short back then, and he'd walk around in these little shorts and muscle shirts. It was adorable, seriously. But that made it even funnier: The Mad Scientist as elementary school student. We made up a whole "Genius Persona" for him:


Super Genius P.J. (in a very Kelsey Grammar hoity-toity, faux British Accent): Omar, are your ruffian friends going to be long? I'm trying to chart the trajectory of an Earth-bound commet and your "video games" are a bit loud and are breaking my concentration.


or there was...


Super Genius P.J.: Yes, you all are quite, quite funny. Now, if you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I have to get to the fifteenth level of Super Mario Brothers 3. I hear the Princess takes off her blouse.


It culminated in this one, wherein the Super Genius
got into a little bit of trouble:


Super Genius P.J.: Omar, please keep your voice down. I've done a terrible thing. I've committed medical malpractice. It was an accident, but still... Now, I'm going to go to Mexico and lay low for a while so I can study for the bar. You'll have to keep an eye on things for me here.


The thing is, we never knew if he was totally in on the joke or not. Years later, given what his sense of humor has developed into (basically, very similar to mine, but with a 10-year jump, so by the time he's 25, his rapier wit will be impaling people regularly), it's clear he knew the deal.

Today, he turns 17. I could write an entire entry just on how old it makes me feel. I mean, jeez. He's driving, now! That's insane. In. Sane. It ain't right. Not that he would agree with me, but honestly, P.J. -- you're still only 12, right? This whole 17 thing is a joke, I know. You didn't really age this much. You must have had some sort of surgery to make you look a little older. Leg extensions, pectoral implants, all that, right?


Here's the thing. He's my baby brother. But he's never been a baby. (Sorry, Mom. I know this must come as a shock that you were carrying a tiny man inside you for nine months, and not a baby.)

P.J. always got along well with my friends because he's always carried a little bit of wisdom and stillness that betrays his age. He can act much older and is much smarter and funnier than he'll let on to people he doesn't trust. That's why my friends liked him so much. That's why he was never the baby.

And now the days when I can even pretend he's the baby brother have officially passed.

He's a man. And it makes me really, really sad in a lost, hopeless kind of way. I can't get those days back. I can only treat him like an equal and hope that heartbreak and hurt and disappointments never become too overwhelming.

I'll never forgot the day I was looking at his CD collection and realizing that he had newer, more hip CDs than I did. The first day I actually had to borrow music from my brother -- that was just depressing. Damn, but the days leave us so quickly.

I can't be there today. And I miss you. A lot.

Happy birthday, baby brother. I'll see you this weekend.


What I promised on Friday (it's worth the click, I promise... ==>


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