Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Goliath!!!!

January 24, 1963. First birthday. (Click pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time." ~Clara Ortega
Today is my brother's birthday and he will be ??? years old. (Come on now, look at the pictures and the other posts and you can figure this out) I was born in the late afternoon; he was born in the morning. I remember this as they kept me out of school that day and I played checkers all morning with my Great Uncle Ad Brown. He was born in Roanoke, Virginia and shares the same "home town" as our mother. Although he was two weeks early and delivered by C-section, he weighed in at a hefty 10 lbs. 8 oz. and filled the bassinet. He began life in a size 2 shoe and in size 6mth clothes and never looked back. (more here)

Stephen at 3 months.

When my mom was visiting him at the nursery window, she overheard another family talking. They were admiring a tiny petite little girl all swaddled in pink, obviously theirs. The husband said to his wife, "Look at that one over there! The tag says his name is Stephen. Man! They should have named him "Goliath"!" Grandma thought Stephen was going to be twins so she crocheted two of each of the baby afghans. (There was no ultrasound in 1962) After he was delivered she proceeded to crochet them together into a much LARGER blanket.

Before we moved to Indiana, around three months of age.
Even then his mouth was wide open and the inherent drama present.

I was a built in babysitter, both when the folks had to go out and in church. I will admit that on rare occasions I would pinch him a little, so he would cry and I could take him to the nursery. My best friend had a baby sister and we could talk together while they played. This was pretty quickly nipped in the bud as nothing much ever got past my dad; well, except for that time Stephen jumped a motorbike, fell, broke his shoulder and told Dad that it was a bicycle (sans the motor). That secret was kept for almost thirty years.

Stephen age 3. 1965. Gary, Indiana.

When Stephen was 9 months old we moved to Gary, Indiana where Dad was to pastor a church. We lived in two different houses before the property for the new church and parsonage was purchased and the house built. Above, Stephen is playing with his dump truck in the sand around the construction site. We had a large basement beneath the house where church was held until the building was complete. The new church had a pre-school, which was quite unusual at that time. They started with about six or seven three and four year olds and Stephen was a student. One day he led several of his little friends across the grass to the parsonage where our little dog Pepper was playing in her yard. As boys will do, they started pestering her and anyway, they weren't supposed to be over there in the first place. I saw them through the dining room window and tapped on it to get his attention, but to no avail. So I "tapped" a little harder...uh, with my fist and being almost a teenager, I didn't realize my own strength. The window shattered as my fist went through it and there was a little blood and three year old mass hysteria as they ran back to the church. This was probably the last time I ever intimidated my little brother... actually, it was the last time I was able to do so.

Sleeping giant... age 4

I wrote about the mishap depicted in the above picture here. Around this same time, Mom had a large rubber plant that she had nurtured and grown to be a fairly good size. It sat in the corner of the living room in the new parsonage. One day Stephen decided to "help mommy". He got under the kitchen sink and found a mayonnaise jar filled with a clear liquid "water". He knew she used a "special water", so he took the lid off and watered the rubber plant liberally; he emptied the jar. I don't know where we were but I do know that I was not "in charge" of him that day. Pretty soon, the poor rubber plant began to droop; or rather the top half started to lean and lean and bend and lean some more until it was at right angles to the bottom half and then some more until it was bent into a U shape. Then the whole plant began to shrivel and in a half an hour it was dead. I think the "water" was actually "turpentine". That was the last rubber plant we ever had; it may have been the last live plant we had. This may have been the point where the fake plastic plants entered the picture.

It looks like we are getting closer, but he's really choking me. Stephen at age six.

Through high school Stephen liked to hang around with the church youth group, going on hay rides, tobogganing (after we moved to New Brighton, Pennsylvania), and such. This was a real time of irritation and he enjoyed popping up just when I was snugging on the hayride with my first boyfriend Howard. He enjoyed getting me in trouble too. It wasn't until I left home for college at the age of 17 that we began to really become friends. He was 8 years old and had his own nine or ten years of being essentially, an only child. When he was twelve, he ushered at my wedding and that was the last recorded moment in history that I was taller than he was.... I was 21. The spurt to 6'5" began that year.

Stephen today. Photo by peter rigaud.
(I call this his "secret agent" look)

Since then I have seen him grow and come into his own. We took vastly different career paths and I admire his tenacious and firm resolve to make it in a very difficult art. His voice has matured from good to great to fabulous. My brother introduced me to the Broadway musical and to classic opera. Because of him I have seen the breathtaking art of Florence and the sights of Vienna, Linz and Salzburg in Austria. I've seen The Phantom of the Opera in Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta and in some places more than once. He has belted out renditions of "Happy Birthday" that everyone in the house could hear through the hand held phone and has crooned "Memory" from Cats at the burial of a beloved pet, even as his canine audience deposited droppings by the casket.

Nyssa and her Uncle Stephen

He has been more than an Uncle to Nyssa. He has been a friend, a playmate, a comforter when she was sick, a champion when she was sad and a strong father figure when her own let her down. In these last three years he has given her the gift of her education when I couldn't and for this we are eternally grateful.

That "Goliath" of a baby born this day years ago has grown into a man with a "Goliath" heart filled with generosity, kindness, strength, understanding and love. I can't imagine having anyone else as my brother and I am thankful God let him come into my life.

Happy Birthday, Brother!!!

There are also posts about his singing and other stories here, here, here, here and here. His website with pictures, itinerary and sound bites of his music are here. (end of post)

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