A long, long time ago, my brother stood at my side as my best man. I was nervous as hell, and glad to have him up there with me.
The fact that we were standing in front of a lot of people, both of us wearing hideous, baby-blue rented tuxedos, made his act of support and loyalty all the more impressive.
This week, two days short of Alan’s 50th birthday, I finally got the chance to return the favor as best man (sans the blue tuxedos, thank goodness).
As of today, Bachelor Brother is properly and happily married off, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities therein.
This year, for the first time, we’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving with him and his lovely bride.
It’s a strange relationship, that sibling thing, fraught with warmth and danger. Growing up, brothers and sisters share a strange, enforced intimacy that can be greatly complicated by a shared genetic background and upbringing.
Siblings know things about each other that no one else can or sometimes should know, things they understand instinctively and could never find the language to explain to outsiders.
The relationship can produce both the deepest, most enduring of bonds or, as the story of Cain and Abel reminds us, it can stir the most passionate of animosities.
Often, especially around the holidays, it manages to do both.
Sigmund Freud explained the passion such relationships can create as “the narcissism of small differences,” the tendency to look at people who remind us of ourselves and focus on the maddening little things that make them different.
In our case, the three of us — my brother and I and our middle sister, Lee Ann, grew up a close-knit unit and we remain that way.
Our parents stressed responsibility to family, and those lessons were reinforced by the isolating experience of trailing a military father all around the world.
Over the course of my education, spread over six elementary schools, two junior highs and three high schools, long-term friendships proved hard to sustain.
For better or worse, we children became reliant on each other, and all these years later we remain that way.
As adults, we’ve all gone our separate ways, living in different parts of the country.
But there’s always a great comfort in hearing a familiar voice on the phone or telling old stories on each other, and these days it’s great fun to tease Alan about how much he’s beginning to look like Dad.
Looking around the Thanksgiving table today, I’m sure we’ll all look a lot older than we did the last time we were able to gather.
But while time takes its toll, it also offers blessings.
Granted enough years on this planet, we get to see basic human relationships in the round, from every perspective.
One day you’re the kid eagerly going off to college and waving goodbye to the parents; the next day you’re the parent, waving goodbye to the kid.
As a parent and as a brother, nothing reassures me more than to see the close friendship between my own daughters as they enter adulthood.
It’s all good, and reason enough to be thankful.