I grew up the youngest of 3 and the only girl. My brothers and I had a torturous relationship. They delighted in teasing me and my whining about it only egged them on. There wasn’t physical fighting as we were too afraid of my mother to pull that kind of crap, but there was a lot of psychological warfare in our house. There was spying. There was blackmail. They told me the average American family had just two children and therefore I should leave. My oldest brother Peter in particular just loved to push my buttons. He would sit on me and hold his hands over my knees as if to grab them, which because I was so ticklish would just send me right over the edge. He would tease me about various boys I hated, and write prescriptions off my father’s pads for ointment because my lips were supposedly chapped from kissing them. As we got older he did things like throw me into snow banks and toss me into the shower with all my clothes on and turn on the water.
And we were competitive. Or at least I was – he had no idea. He’d gone away to camp in Canada one summer where he took horseback riding lessons, and came back riding as well as I did, and I’d been at it for ages. Needless to say, I was pissed. So when he decided he wanted to play the viola, I demanded violin lessons (I’d have gone for viola too but I was too tiny at the time to hold one). I had to outdo him at something. So I took lessons and played violin for nine freakin’ years, just so I could be better at something than Peter. And I was. Neener, neener. Funny thing though, I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. It was okay and I could play well, but it was a lot of time spent on something that was never a passion. So who really won? He didn’t know we were in a competition anyway.
I finally grew to enjoy my brothers after they went off to college. They tortured me less, I whined less, we all relaxed. And as we became adults, we actually started to like each other. Imagine that.
Peter was a quirky, slightly twisted, seriously brilliant guy. He did all the hard crossword puzzles (NYT, London Times) with a pen and would time himself. He thought Organic Chemistry was easy and became a professor of Chemistry, as well as a textbook author. He went to law school (he referred to it as ‘Weasel School’) for fun. He’d bow out of a family get-together at the last minute, but show up at my door the next weekend with a box of lobsters and bottles of wine. And he’d call me just about every week, opening the conversation with ‘Hello, Favorite Sister’.
He also watched out for me. He provided enormous moral and some financial support during my very ugly divorce. I'll never forget the time when after visiting him in Maine for the weekend, I opened my wallet to pay a toll - and found $300 that he'd quietly snuck in there. When I was diagnosed with Cancer, Peter was the person I had the hardest time telling because he’d had Lymphoma too, a few years before. He dropped everything and drove 5 hours each way to sit with me while I got my first chemo treatment. He came armed with supplies to help deal with chemo side effects and also brought fine chocolates – some for me, some to give to the nurses in the Chemo suite so I’d become their favorite patient. He knew what I was up against and helped me be prepared.
Today would have been Peter’s 53rd birthday. He died at 48 – his cancer returned shortly after I completed treatment for mine.
This is my 100th blog post and Peter it’s for you. Your Favorite Sister misses you terribly.