Blood Brothers

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August 19th, 2010

I didn’t know why my big brother Scott was leaning across the ripped vinyl seats in our 70s station wagon with a goofy smile plastered across his face. But when he pushed up against me and buried his mouth and nose in my chest, I knew in my nine-year-old mind I shouldn’t fear getting hit. […]

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I didn’t know why my big brother Scott was leaning across the ripped vinyl seats in our 70s station wagon with a goofy smile plastered across his face. But when he pushed up against me and buried his mouth and nose in my chest, I knew in my nine-year-old mind I shouldn’t fear getting hit. From there, muffled by my shirt, I heard him sing, “Come on people now, smile on your brother …”

He was actually doing that, smiling on his brother.

Neither of us really understood how to smile on someone or what the song actually meant, but he took the initiative and gave it a whirl in the back of our puke-yellow car with the impossibly garish fake wood decals along the side. I gave him credit for trying.

My relationship with Scott has always been a sociologist’s dream. He was the youngest in the family for six years until I bumbled out of the womb and spoiled his streak. Securing the role of middle child, he fought equally hard against Dean, our oldest, and me. The battles with Dean were epic, as the two were pretty evenly matched only being 14 months apart. One time I showed up in their bedroom and heard pounding and yelling. Somehow Dean had shoved Scott into their closet and jammed the door shut with a spare crutch leftover from the time Dean’s plan to karate kick the medicine cabinet door didn’t work out exactly as planned.

Scott’s battles with me were more like the Nazi’s invading Poland, only I didn’t have the international community in an uproar over my beatings. Surrender was my only option.

I always knew Scott had my back though. The neighborhood bullies didn’t seem to come by for a second round of mayhem at my expense once he paid them a visit. And I can distinctly remember a long-ago adventure in the park at the end of our street next to the chemical factory. The place was packed and my big brother was actually a bit shaken up when he thought he’d lost me to the crowd of kids who’d gathered in the summer night to watch somebody do something — lost to time — but invariably wrong or illegal.

As we got older though, a real respect for each other began to take hold and — shock upon shock — we found out we actually enjoyed being in each other’s company. Whereas we used to pass the time goading each other until Mom or Dad yelled at us, (usually yelling at him because I played the victim card ALL the time), now we golf. He still beats me though, only now it’s with the number of swings it takes put the damn ball in the cup.

I’d say we’ve progressed up the socially acceptable ladder a rung or two.

When I got tackled by leukemia a few months ago I could see the pain in my big brother’s eyes. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seemed to me they were saying, “Come on Rodney, how am I supposed to protect you from this?”

He’s often stopped by my hospital room or swung by the house and mowed my lawn for me. He’s done what he could, lifting my spirits, talking about the Tigers, telling jokes, having his bone marrow tested, that sort of thing.

We’ve known throughout this disease that my prognosis, if everything goes according to plan, is very good. We’ve also witnessed things not going at all according to plan. For the past several weeks we’ve been on the course from remission to a cure by doing more chemotherapy and knocking leukemia completely and totally out of me forever.

The best way to do that, we’re told, is by replacing my bone marrow with someone else’s. Several people have been tested, including my brothers and a cousin and there have even been folks in the national registry, friends of mine, who’ve sent me their anonymous code numbers in case we were a match.

A couple days ago one of those anonymous numbers hit. I was told I won the Lottery. It actually was my brother Scott’s marrow which at this point looks like a perfect match for my own. He had been in the national registry years earlier for a firefighter friend of his and due to our similar genetic makeup, he appears to be the perfect donor for me. In the crass words of a couple buddies 30 years ago, “you and your brother are fucking clones.”

My creative brother figured out yet another way to smile on me.

“So Scott, how are you feeling today?” I asked when I phoned him, “how do your bones feel?” I told him the news and he was extremely happy for me and I think a bit for himself too. Upon further conversation, when he learned all he had to do was basically just give blood and not go under the knife or pickax or corkscrew he seemed even happier.

He was happier still when I agreed that a meal at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse would be the perfect way to prep his blood for sharing. The dude’s giving me his stem cells; the least I can do is order him a New York Strip.

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcbrothers_cousin.jpg

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