Saturday, 6 February 2010

“What Brothers Do” or “How I ended up Driving Gigi’s purple glasses and Longaberger baskets across the country.”

As Shannon drove me to my parents’ house to meet Chris, Asher said, “Dad, you’re going to drive the truck?”

Me: Yes Asher.
Asher: Why?

I had already told him several times that morning that I was driving a truck with uncle Chris back to his house in California, that we had spent the night before loading all of his and Gigi’s remaining Nashville-based possessions into this twenty-four foot truck. But till now he hadn’t asked why. I paused for a moment, then turned around in my seat and looked at him.

“Because that’s what brothers do.”

My older brother: Chris, his wife: Gigi, their two children: Burns (6) and Grayton (4).

Three years ago Chris applied to and was accepted into the only Spiritual Formation program at an evangelical university in the U.S. (and probably the world, for that matter, I don’t know). Of course this university is in California (L.A., nat’). So they packed a twenty-four foot truck with everything they could, put the rest in storage and Moved Away. They lived in a rented university house while he was a student, and round about a year ago he graduated. I guess they liked him, because they offered him a teaching position, and so they decided to stay. This meant finding a more permanent address, and as the housing market had cratered, there was never a better time for them to take the plunge into the unfathomably expensive southern CA housing landscape. It’s a long and painful story: that of their journey to California home ownership, but shortly after the first of the year they stood victorious on the threshold of their new house. And all that stuff they’d left in storage? It finally had a home too.

A few weeks ago I got an email from my mother informing me that my highly sought after truck packing skills were required, as Chris and a buddy would be flying in to pack up their remaining stuff and drive it back to Cali. I’m like most people—I hate packing, but he was my brother, so we worked the scheduling out. About a week later I received another email from my mother that the CA buddy had to drop out of the trip, and that Chris would be driving the truck solo. I talked it over with Shannon for a minute and she agreed. I called my mother and said, “I’ll go with him.”

In the three years he’s been out there, I haven’t been able to visit. And really, we haven’t spent more than about four hours together in a sitting since he’s moved. So this seemed like an excellent opportunity for me to get to do both. Plus, I have a buddy from college with a new baby that lives out there that I’d also get to see. It was an easy decision, and well worth the two vacation days.

But still, nobody likes packing and NOBODY like being in the cab of a Uhaul for thirty-odd hours, and I thought I’d dread and resent it, but as I met him the night he got to town to load a PIANO, and then the rest of his stuff, I found it didn’t bother me at all, and that I was actually having a good time. Matt (younger brother) came out and joined us after his basketball game (he’s a coach for a local school). It was cold and rained the whole time. Didn’t bother me a bit.

My dad had pushed earlier in the evening to stop and eat between the piano and the rest of the stuff, but I wanted to finish loading, because you do the hard part first, and also because I knew Matt might be able to join us. He did. So did mom. And something happened that hasn’t happened in memory: the five of us—my mom and dad, my two brothers and I, had dinner together.

I have my own family now, and they are my family. My brothers are both married and have children as well. But I think this is the first time since at least they were married (7 or 8 years) that it’s just been the five of us. Nothing special happened, mostly I just explained “Lost” to them, but it was special, and I was blessed by it.

The night before, Shannon had been at rehearsal and I was home with the Four. Asher is at the age where he loves to play “Duck Duck Goose” and he’s terrible at it. It’s also not so much about catching each other as it is just to run in a big meandering loop through the house cackling like mad while someone chases you. There’s no mush pot. So Asher, Lorelei, Piper and I had been playing (I carry Piper with me as we run or chase, depending), and it was time to put Piper to bed. Jacob was doing homework at the table. I took Piper upstairs and put her down. When I came out of her room, Asher and Lorelei were still playing and Jacob was participating from the table—which is to say that he was rooting for them. And they were all delirious with laughter.

There is no finer sound in the world than your own children laughing with and because of each other.

So I was thinking about these two beautiful moments—the dinner and the duck, duck, goose game—when Asher asked me why I was driving a truck to California with my brother.

I wanted to say to him, “because you grow up and get married and have kids and get jobs and move away and LIFE HAPPENS and you don’t ever get to play duck, duck, goose with your siblings anymore.” But he’s three and wouldn’t understand that. So I said,

“That’s what brothers do.”

And he seemed to accept this.

So I’m in a truck with my brother Chris. Matt has already expressed his sincere desire to be in the middle seat between us. I believe him with all my heart, because I would feel the same way if they were going without me. We’re eating like crap, telling some old stories, but mostly just riding in companionable silence. Adult duck, duck, goose.


Mitch said...

Absolutely loved it, Neil. Having just completed the same trip a few weeks ago, my advise is to roll into LA with the windows down, bladring Miley Cirus.

Todd said...

Roll on, my friend.

I hope your boys stumble across this post when they're our age. Glad the trip is proving to be a blessing.

Great read.

stephen said...

Well said.

diadelkendall said...

enjoyed this one.

also, on a related note, I drove the fuge U-Haul from NAshville to Riverside with Killer Kyle Cravens more than 10 years ago. That drive will make you brothers if you aren't already.

Hope Arkansas has fixed their stretch of the road since then.

smileyflowers said...

You have a son and daughter Asher and Lorelei? So do we? And I thought we were so creative.