My big brother Fred turns 56 today. 56. Which to me, a mere stripling at 54, sounds both old and significantly closer to 60 than I could ever imagine. After all, when Mozart was 56, he was dead for 21 years.
Fred was always the fastest and the brightest of us kids. He was also probably the most linguistically able--he could turn anything into a groan-inducing pun. And he was by far the most argumentative. He's a lawyer, Fred is, and has been for about the last 35 years. All those skills serve him well, though I suspect some of his more austere corporate clients want to throttle him when he makes one of his horrible jokes.
We grew up in an advertising household. My father was a three-martini-fueled skirt-chaser, which would have been ok if he hadn't been so light on his feet as to catch a few dozen of those skirts. It's hard on a marriage skirt-chasing is, but not nearly as hard as skirt-catching.
Fred and I, unlike other kids in the neighborhood, grew up watching the commercials not the shows. But when it came time to choose a career, Fred chose law. And I, instead, chose advertising. Unlike my old man, who had had a number of heart-attacks and a well-honed drinking problem, Fred and I aren't in bad shape. We both run a few times a week and try to stay within spitting distance of our fighting weight, though I've been less successful at that than Fred..
We probably make around the same amount of dough, Fred and I. But he is much smarter about money than I and probably has a lot more.
Fred and I are both sober types, not given to great displays of enthusiasms. Our wives--both of whom are more social than we--regard us, I'm sure as misanthropic or even lugubrious. But that's ok. That's who we are.
Every birthday for about the last 30 years Fred and I call each other. My conversation with him is roughly as it's always been.
"Happy Birthday, Fred."
"It's not my birthday" he lashes. "It's the anniversary of my birth."
That's life with my brother.
Happy birthday, Fred.