The Odyssey

Yes, I have one.  Many do.  But, I have friends who actually act surprised when I mention him.  “Oh, you have a brother?  Why do I not know this?”

We aren’t that close.  We were close growing up being only two or so years apart, but drifted after leaving home and stayed that way for a small handful of silly reasons and a dash of laziness and complacency on both our parts.  Put it this way, when we were suddenly thrust into the same car to drive to Tennessee for our Aunt’s funeral, I had to Mapquest directions to his house.

I like him.  He’s kind and funny and a hard worker and a seemingly great husband and father.  We just don’t call or text or facebook or hang out except for the random holiday at our parents’ house.  We mean well.  We just get all hung up in our stuff.

Then this golden opportunity appeared under the cloak of grief.  Road Trip.  What better way to renew our sibling groove than to spend 24 hours in a car together?  Just like old times.  This could work or it could be, inappropriately, a nail in the coffin of our relationship.

In those 24 hours, we braved four Cracker Barrels all piping in the most dreadful contemporary Christian music, talked about poop, kids, ex-husbands (mine), more kids, divorces (mine), the genealogical roots of our family’s dysfunction, how difficult it is to be gluten-free when traveling, the crazy family dynamic currently in play, the death of our Aunt, and countless other topics.

We were reminded that in The Land of Drawl people talk differently, move slowly, and drive even slower.  Even the toilets flush slowly.  We listened to the housekeeping department at the hotel discuss a missing BYE-BUHL from a room.  (Translation: Bible)  They were also discussing some missing hangers.  “I need one like iss, not one like at.”  The kind of stuff that will make you pause.  Even if it’s simply from realizing that if we had never moved, we’d talk like that too.  Only in east Tennessee can someone visiting from Missouri seem like a total Yankee.

The trip was awesome.  No awkward silences.  He let me play DJ and even enjoyed some of the music.  We reminisced when he busted out his 80’s playlist.  We commented that apparently the right lane is now called the texting lane.  I learned that as far as organs transplants go, kidneys are the volume leader.  According to my brother, the Boy Scouts of America have settled for celebrating mediocrity, but he is working as a troop leader to keep the tradition alive and to keep pumping Eagle Scouts into society.

When the conversation waned and I got tired, he let me sleep.  When we ran out of available subjects and I started asking existential questions like, “Why are all barns red?”  He actually knew the answer.  It has something to do with iron oxide.

When he got tired, I let him sleep even though I was nervous about being left totally in charge.  When he felt like dorking out on Star Wars, I let him and I joined in the nerd fest.  Did you know the guy who acted in the fight scenes as Darth Vader died the day before we left?  I did.  And we bonded.

We jointly agreed to blow off part of a family thing so I could go shoot photos and he was happy to be the driver of the getaway car when I wanted to sneak around a fence into a chemical plant for a great shot.

After the trip, we fist-bumped and I burned him some CDs.  And I realized that I always have a go-to when the chips are down or if I need to free my leg from a bear trap.  For a friend with an understanding heart is worth no less than a brother.


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