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Me, Respect, and Ry

“The best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness, to an opponent tolerance.” So said Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and scientist, about respect. And this is most definitely the case with my brother. Sometimes I love him, sometimes I hate him, but I consistently just respect him, his ideas, and his actions. If he decides to be a total jerk, let him, he will suffer the consequences. If he chooses to be an angel, indeed he shall reap the benefits, as is rightly so. There are some times, however, when our association with one another becomes possibly a tad more than respect…

The woods behind our house, July of 2006: I am 10 years old, Ryan is 7. Having ventured to the very boundaries of the flat, solid plane we know so well, we seek to venture beyond a large patch of what seem to be clovers. I am still unsure about whether or not to cross, but not Ryan—he rushes to bound across them. As he does, time stops. His face registers surprise, then shock, then comes to rest…at fear, as his foot finds not solid ground, yet instead mud. Thick, oozing mud, with enough viscosity that plants and sticks and even rocks can lay on it, but not enough that my brother can. Mud wells up over his ankles, then his knees; lastly his waist. He stares with a blank face, a deer looking into the eyes of a coyote, a zebra catching the scent of a frenzied lion closing in. He realizes there is no escaping it. It will eventually consume him, and when he finally succumbs to its warm, flowing embrace…

”I’m stuck.”
Those simple words snap me back to the present. Still dazed, I attempt to comprehend in even the slightest way what he is trying to say. Suddenly, it all rushes into me:

“OhmyGodyou’restuckinthemudMommy’sgoingtokillus.”
After I hyperventilate a bit, I calm down and think nice thoughts. Happy ones:

“What the heck am I going to do?”
I spin around, a whirlwind of panic and adrenaline. I grab the nearest sturdy stick and thrust it into the mud, nearly impaling him in the process.

“Grab onto this and I’ll pull you out. You have to try climbing out, too.”

“No, I don’t want you to do it. Go get Daddy. Hurry!”
I get ticked off. Here I am, trying to save him from the coyotes and starvation, and this ungrateful little brat doesn’t want my help. I am tempted to leave him there or even just pretend to walk away just to scare him a little, but I can’t bring myself to do it. He’s my brother—no matter if I like him or not, I can’t just leave him there. And what am I supposed to do, run to the house for help and hope he doesn’t drown? I make a decision, and so start screaming like I’ve never screamed before.

He also assists me in my times of need. Whenever there are spider webs in a corner, he doesn’t laugh at my fear of them. No, instead he rips them apart with his bare hands, as if to say, “Look Matt, I’m always here for you.”

It is beautiful, this bond between my brother and I. We are so distant, yet so inseparable. Finally, the true meaning of beauty has been unveiled for me. Nothing is stronger than it: the relationship between brothers. Though we have our differences, we have learned to put up with each other most of the time and accept the fact that brothers are we, as well as the fact that if we don’t learn to do so, the next five years until I go away to college will be terribly miserable, so we’d better deal with it. You know, there was another segment of that quote that follows. It reads: “To a friend, your heart, and to all men charity.” So said Benjamin Franklin, a man who somehow knew just how to describe my brother and I.



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