My bother was born first. He was born four years before I was even a glimmer of a thought. As a baby he had bright brilliant red hair, so much so that the nurses in the hospital made it into a huge curl on top of his head. My mom thought is was adorable, his dad..... not so much.
To say my mother's children share a resemblance would be an understatement. All three of us (my brother, my sister, and I) all have red hair in varying shades. I have the lightest and I always wanted their more rich almost copper color. We all have blue eyes, my brother having a beautiful sky blue and my sister and I have more of a marbled dark midnight blue. We all have the pale white complexion of Elmer's glue.
We grew up visiting each other on weekends. My brother lived with his father, my sister ,who is two years older than me, lived with her father's side of the family, and I lived with our mom.
Our summers consisted of sunburns, laughter, and pranks. My brother is ever the prankster. His sense of humor is keen and sharp. He wears his hair in crazy styles that makes others sometimes stop and stare. He is unabashedly blunt.....kind of like someone else we know. He has had many struggles and trials and he has beat them. I am truly proud of the things he has overcome. He amazes me sometimes, I am not sure I could have beaten addiction the way that he did. I am not sure that I would recover from some of the bad things he has gone through. He is my brother and although we don't always see eye to eye I love him very much.
I have many memories of my brother joking with me or getting us both in trouble. He was always good at getting me to do stupid things that eventually would get us spankings or grounded. He was a master of fooling me, like when he pretended to eat a piece of dry cat food and convinced me to actually try some too. He thought it was hilarious as I chewed with a horrible expression on my face. F.Y.I. it tastes like greasy, salty bits of crumbs. Quite disgusting.
When I was ten and he was fourteen we had a day I have never forgot. My brother had come over for a visit. It was mid summer and a million degrees outside as it often is in Texas.We had walked the four blocks to one of the town's big parks. This one had a slide, a swing set, and a long shallow creek that was lined with natural shale rock. It had rained recently and we decided that we would take off our socks and shoes and walk in the cool refreshing liquid. Anything at this point would have to be cooler as we were quite sure we were physically melting into the pavement. We splashed water at each other laughing about whatever kids laugh about. He started walking in the creek ahead of me. All of a sudden he reached down to scratch his ankle. He touched something odd and as he did, he started to elevate his voice with fear,"What is that....what is tha...Oh My God, is that a leech? Is that a leech??!!" By the time he had finished this sentence he was screaming in the highest pitch his voice could muster. He started grabbing at his ankle and rolling around on the ground yelling at me to go get mom. Now, I knew nothing about leeches except what I had seen on the movie Stand By Me. And this leech looked more like a tiny black string of snot rather then the huge leeches the characters of that film had on them. It occurred to my ten year old mind, that my brother watched horror movies all of the time so he must have understood something about leeches that I did not. I thought it had to painful to be sucked on by a leech the way he was yelling and screaming and rolling around. It had to be a bad sign because he was yelling it was sucking all of his blood. I became frightened that this thing could kill him. I ran home as fast as my ten year old legs would run. I would get tired and out of breath but this high pitched voice inside my head pleaded and shouted for me to get mom. I had to get mom. The whole way I screamed for our mother hoping she would hear me and come out of the house before I got there. Four blocks started taking it's toll and my chest and side started to ache. My screams became more of harsh whispers. Finally I had made it home and I beat on the door. Our mother was frazzled as I tried to explain what was going on but I was so out of breath it sounded like," help.... hurt... need you... ...ankle....doesn't want to die."
Then as she eyed me she said,"What is that noise? What is that sound? Is that your brother?" Apparently my brother was now screaming so loud that we could hear him four blocks away. It wasn't his voice in my head rushing me to get mom, it was actually his voice screaming at me for real.
I had awful images of what we would find when we got back to the park. Maybe the slimy little leech had been sucking out his blood for so long that we would turn the corner just to see him deflated like a balloon. He would just be lying there like a husked out shell of his former self unable to move as this monster sucked his life force except to raise his hand slightly in our direction in a last desperate silent plea for help. (I had a very vivid imagination). Instead as we rounded the corner I realized my brother had made it from the creek bed to the picnic table twelve feet away and was now on his back still screaming and rolling around. A crowd of adults had encircled him with senses of awe and worry on their faces. Our mother and I finally approached the picnic table only to see a guy walk from the crowd and fumble in his pockets. This man wore the kind of cut of jean shorts only done in the eighties fashion that were too short and a tad to tight. He was covered in blue and black ink prison tattoos, sported one silver dangle earring, and wore his black hair in a combed back wave kind of like Patrick Swayze a la Next Of Kin. He smelled faintly of motor oil and cigarettes. He reached out of his pocket and presented a cigarette lighter. He flicked it and as we held down my brother so he wouldn't move, the man burned the leech and it dropped off. Crisis averted. My brother thanked the man over and over again assured that this man had most definitely saved his life. I was sure of it as well. My mother looked at us both like we were insane.
We laugh at that story now because now we realize that a single tiny leech isn't a life threatening experience. That he was in no real danger of bleed to death or being sucked dry. It was silly and we reacted to it in a ridiculous and over dramatic fashion. He pokes fun at me about the cat food and I poke fun at him about the leech and we go on laughing like siblings do.
What this experience taught me though, was much greater than just the knowledge leeches are not that dangerous. What it taught me is that sometimes I get so carried away with I perceive to be wrong with me (health fears), what I fear might happen to someone I love (intrusive thoughts), or what might be around the corner that I blow it out of proportion. I dwell and dwell and dwell until I am almost hysterical. I react at these things like my brother reacted to the leech in the park and I assume the worst. I become terrified and over dramatic. It helps to remember this story and remember that just because I cry and get scared, just because I am afraid of what I think might happen does not make it true. That mostly, I have hyped up what is going on with me and it isn't ,in reality, that bad. I need to breathe and look at things from an outsiders view. Is it really that bad? Am I blowing things out of proportion or letting the fear take over? Most likely. I like to remind myself of this story in times like these and it helps me.
So in short, don't let your fears become a leech. Don't let them drain you dry and remember just because you become hysterical with fear it does not mean there is real danger. Most likely you are just scared and that is perfectly okay.
Oh and happy birthday "Christopher Robin". I love you.