Lent 13

In those days, the reign of Jimmy Carter was in its waning hours. The terror of Reaganomics was yet to begin. But the great realignment of the two party American system, that was impacted by the Civil rights movement, the “Southern Strategy” and the the Republican appeal to religious voters was well under way. And it seemed every Christian in America went to his home town to vote for Ronald Reagan

So, Sony had also came back up north from the Florida to the town of Middleville in Barry County, of Western Michigan, near the the city of Gerald R. Ford. They conceived and gave birth to one child just 16 days shy of being being born out of wedlock. And they sealed their nuptials on the Birthday of that great spiritual leader and cultural accommodator, Elvis Presley.

And unto you, this very day, the 15th of March, 1980 a child was born, in the city of Gerald R. Ford. And this will be a sign to you: you will find the child wrapped in typical hospital garb and you will name him James Edward, meaning: One who follows, yet guards. And his older brother will have a scowl on his face and cry, “Take him back! Tack him back! I prayed for a sister! Take him back!”

I don’t think it really happened exactly liked that. I doubt I said awfulness more than once or twice about my baby brother. I am not even sure anymore if my mom’s story was true about chasing my dad to Florida and proposing to him after he knocked her up. But that is how I here it in my head, complete with Charlton Heston sounding narration. And this is how mythologies – both mundane and world changing – come to be. Someone tells a story, rooted in historical residue, warped by memory, retold and re-purposed, regurgitated by the next generation, through the filter of their joys and their wounds, their hopes and their longings.

I kept that scowl on my face until my 20’s. And my little brother, Jim and I have had our share of ups and downs. But I love him dearly. I am so thankful for this day! His day!

We are so different. He is much more gifted visually (a graphic designer by trade). And I am more auditory. Yet, he writes songs and loves music. He is celebrating his birthday by taking his son to his first concert tonight. And I appreciate aesthetics, from a very cursory viewpoint. He crosses over into my world much easier than I do his. But we both cross that river. Perhaps that is because that is where both of our worlds began: In interplay between our mother’s Bible stories, vivid morality tales and our dad’s sad country, soul and classic rock soundtrack always blasting in our ears. I’ve grown to love Hip Hop and Jim has a very peripheral grasp of it. I was trained to be a pastor and walked away. He trained to be an artist and works for the church.

But in reality we are for more alike than we usually admit. But I don’t mind admitting it. Especially not on this day. His Day! We are both incredibly stubborn. We both struggle with anxiety and have awkward and sometimes painful muscle spasms from our shared affliction: Dystonia.

But far more importantly, we both love and love vigorously! We both well up with a mix of pride – healthy pride – and tears when we talk about our artistic passions. We both work our asses off to provide for our children. Perhaps it is because both of our middle names have guard or guardian in their meaning.  Or maybe it is a shared nurturing instinct that we get from our mom and a strict work ethic we inherited from our dad (though hopefully we are both more tempered in our approach than them).

He is an amazing human being. I am lucky. I don’t care how the story really started. It is our turn to tell it. Our turn to write and right our history. We may not see eye to eye. But I see the best of myself in you. I love you. Happy Birthday little Brother.

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