Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Four Brothers- part 1, brother 1

That was a title of a 2005 movie starring Mark Wahlburg. It was about two black and two white boys who had been adopted and raised by the same woman, and how they handled things when someone killed their mom. (I caught an edited tv version several years ago; I'm pretty sure the unedited has some bad parts...too bad because it was an awesome movie otherwise). I have five brothers, but three of them I don't know very well- that's just how things pan out in a large family. The other two I am close to. Add Eric and Hinton and there are my four. This post, I will introduce you to Kenny.

Kenny is 45, nine years older than me. I thought Kenny was so cool when I was little that I thought he invented certain cool words like jerk and puke. If Kenny took Mom to the grocery store and I got to ride along I would get to listen to Quiet Riot all the way there. I still know all the words to Mental Health, a classic. Kenny was probably one of the only kids on the planet, when they quit school, whose parents were told, almost in an embarrassed regretful tone by the school administration, that he was so intelligent that he was bored. He made Star War X-wing fighters out of the cardboard from the Lipton tea bag boxes and when he was done, they looked better than our neighbors' manufactured toys. Kenny also took me fishing when I was a kid and let me play Dungeons and Dragons with them every once in a great while. (I was always the woods girl whose card had an archer on it).

He joined the army when I was in the fourth grade and then was exalted to untouchable cool status because he had amazing basic training stories- which were nothing short of exotic to a bunch of kids who barely ever left the hollow. Not only that, but he worked on Apache helicopters. While he was in Texas for his four years, we all moved to South Carolina. When he came back to Pennsylvania after he got out, we weren't there any more. This has always bothered Kenny... but I've learned that all of us have places we can never go back to in life.

When I was in the twelfth grade, Kenny called down to SC and said that if I really wanted to go to Penn State, I could come live with him for the rest of my senior year so that I could get in-state tuition. I packed my bags and left SC like a man who had just wrapped up a prison sentence and was going home (though I am grateful for the friends, bible belt influence, and sweet tea I found there). Penn State wouldn't give me in-state tuition, so Kenny encouraged me to join the Air Force. It was very good for many reasons, probably more than I even know. I almost didn't go when it actually came time to leave for boot camp, but I decided I couldn't let Kenny down after all the help he had given me. I met Cory while I was in the Air Force and was stationed here, in my beloved Virginia.

Kenny is an avid history buff and when he starts talking about the Franks or the Goths I either just nod and smile or come right out and tell him I have no idea what he is talking about. Dumb it down for me, bro, they didn't cover that in the 2 paragraphs my public school text book offered on the subject. There's hope, though, because since I have been homeschooling I am finally learning history. Whenever I visit I try to drop key words to show off and impress my ample-brained sibling. It's kind of amusing and insulting at the same time when the engineers at Harley happen to ask what Kenny thinks of something in the plant and then they present it at one of their management meetings and get promoted. He also knows all about politics- way more information than I could ever handle sifting through- and is decidedly conservative, though his blue collar union dues are funneled to exclusively liberal candidates every damn election year (emphasis and cursing added on his behalf).

All of this bragging is being done completely behind his back, he is not prideful at all. If your car breaks down he will lay his colossal brain down on the dirt and look under it for you to see what is the matter. Kenny is the type of guy that everyone in the family knows they can call if they need anything and he will be there. To be that person is sometimes a burden, but he accepts it because, try as he might, he can't seer out of his make up the good qualities that make him so loyal. He's been working at Harley Davidson for many years now and is about to step out into his own niche business. He carries the same weight most of us in the family have had to carry- the inability to shirk responsibility to pursue our dreams. We've all known since we were very young that there were no free rides in a family of fourteen, and we had to make sure there was food on the table. That makes for a painfully, painfully slow dream pursuit... but the turtle in the story always gets there, doesn't he?

Kenny restored a convertible Firebird and likes to drive it down through the hollow. He loves the hollow more than any of us, I do believe. When he researched our family tree a few years back he found out that our great grandpa lived right around the corner from where we grew up and probably played in the same creeks we did as kids. History, childhood, and natural beauty... no wonder he likes it there.

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