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Monday, February 11, 2013

A Brother's Birthday

Here is a picture of the last remaining members of the California branch of the Gillock family.  My brother (on the right) and I are shuffling into geezerhood now.  He is ahead of me by 8 years.  He is ahead of me in many ways - he is sorta retired, I am still working.  His kids are grown and gone, I still have 2 at home.  He is a successful husband; I am a 2-time loser in that role.  My brother John has always been awesome.  Today is his birthday, so here is the obligatory shout - out:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!!!!!.

John and I grew up in a classic 1950's/1960's family unit.  For quite a few years, dad worked, mom stayed home and the two kids did all those classic kid things - Cub Scouts, attend the local school, hang with the kids in the 'hood, etc.  But our dad had some mental health challenges - he eventually went on disability - and mom got her teaching credentials and went to work.  I stopped looking up to my father and started looking up to my brother instead.

Siblings often fall into the love/hate trap.  I was an annoying kid.  John didn't really want to hang out with me much when we both lived at home - the age difference was sufficiently large that we occupied separate realities.  And as I entered the school system, I kept running into a consistent response from teachers that knew my brother: "Oh, you are John Gillock's brother?  Well, I hope you are as marvelous as he is."  God, I hated that attitude.  It was especially aggravating to know that the teachers were right, my brother was marvelous, and I would always come up short when compared to him.  So I was annoying, but he was insufferable due to his marvelousness.

He was the star in high school - dashingly handsome, on the swim team, class president, outstanding grades, college scholarship offers, Eagle Scout -- well, you get the picture.

He went off to college and something interesting happened - we became closer.  I paid a lot of attention to him.  He was a man of strong opinions and integrity.  He fought tooth and nail with my parents over the Vietnam conflict; he hated the war on moral grounds and worked hard to stay out of it. Years later, my mother told me that she realized that John had been right about Vietnam.

My brother became a teacher, like our mother.  He worked in New Orleans, rural Washington state, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Abu Dhabi and Portland OR.  He has changed and molded many young people.  He is a master teacher.

John is a skilled outdoorsman who can quickly pitch a tent in the rain at midnight.  He is a dedicated hiker, and still hits the trail whenever he can in spite of the effects of Parkinsons Disease.  Yes, John is fighting this nasty affliction, but he has accepted it with grace and calmness.  And he isn't letting the disease define him in any way.

John took care of our mother when she was dying of cancer.  He has been incredibly kind and supportive as I have gone through some struggles over the past year or so.  And when I try to thank him, he just says, "This is what brothers are for."

I have had a lot of good luck, but one of the luckiest things in my life is having John as my brother.

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