Monday, January 03, 2005

My Big Brother Bud

The only thing nicer than having one big brother is having two. Trouble is, this makes you the little brother. If you've never been in this position it's hard to imagine how it is. Here are some of the things I remember about being the low man on the totem pole.

First, you got a lot of hand-me-downs. Half worn out tennis shoes, old ball gloves, well worn shirts and corduroy knickers that had served their time in hell - only to be resurrected for another life with a patch here and a stitch there. . And lots of marbles. Yes, marbles. My brothers both excelled at the game of marbles and they won hordes of them during their marble playing grade school years. They saved them in large drawstring bags and I inherited them. When I first sallied forth to try my hand at this game of skill, it seems like I was a bit late to the party. Everyone seemed to be a hot shot and I was a pretty consistent loser. I would march off to school with a pocket full of the hard-earned marbles of my older brothers and come home empty handed--cleaned out by the slick willies that couldn't seem to miss. Delmar Edwards was the hottest shot at Park School and he could clean the ring when his turn came to shoot. Pretty soon I had lost all my marbles, a condition some would allow went deeper than appearances would suggest. But I digress.

Bud, my second oldest brother and eleven years my senior, never minded that I'd lost all his marbles. He was very understanding in a condescending sort of way. I think he looked on me as a sort of benign pothole in his road, around which there was no detour. So he tolerated my little annoyances and made allowances for my presence. He had his agenda and I had mine and oftentimes my agenda was to inflict as much annoyance as possible in his direction. Brotherly love on my part was yet an unlearned virtue.

Lucien, my eldest brother and 14 years my senior, was so far beyond childhood that he was like another adult in the household and we had less contact as I was growing up. However, there were exceptions.

There was a time in my young life when I was so strongly into baseball that I fashioned myself to be a budding Walker Cooper, a hotshot catcher for the St Louis Cardinals. Walker's brother Mort was a pitcher for the same team. I thought perhaps I was a close copy of these two Cardinal players and one day Bud caught me looking at myself sideways in the mirror. I was bold enough to confide to him I thought I saw a resemblance between myself and Mort Cooper. That was a big mistake on my part. I never heard the last of it.

Being the butt of your big brothers guffaws served only to sharpen my desire for sweet revenge so I plotted ways I could get even for this indefensible teasing I was receiving at their hands. After many wakeful nights thinking how I might right the terrible wrongs they were inflicting on my self-esteem, I decided to challenge them both to a bet. I challenged them that they couldn't strike me out.

They thought this was pretty funny stuff and made a lot of jokes about striking me out but in the end we went out in the pasture next to the house and Lucien pitched and Bud caught. Bud said "We are going to make quick work of this and shut you up, you little Devil." First pitch I hit a foul ball. Second pitch was wide. Third pitch I hit another foul ball and on it went. I would foul tip each pitch, never really getting a good piece of the ball but never striking out either. This went on and on ad infinitum.

Tiring of this and wanting to move on to more interesting things, Lucien finally pitched a ball that arched high over my head. So high that even Bud couldn't catch it. "Strike three!" he exclaimed, "You're out on a called strike." They both immediately walked back to the house leaving me to bellow at them all the four lettered utterances I could bring forth, and the expletives were more varied and colorful than I care to relate in mixed company.

Blessedly, time cures all ills. As we grew older I learned to love my brothers dearly. They were there for me when it mattered. And I know I must have given them some trying moments. They both pinch-hit as a father figure as Dad had passed away early on. To my brother Bud I say thank you for all the times you came to my aid as I was finding my way. He was a good football coach and a good dating mentor. I'll never forget the time I threw the rod in your Chevy you had loaned me to drive to the prom. How do I say thank you for not hitting the ceiling? I don't know if I ever said thank you for your help when my car broke down enroute from Dover, Del to Cheyenne, Wyo. with only days to spare to avoid being AWOL; and the bucks you slipped me to get the car fixed. I know those were not spare bucks and that is what makes you so great. And your support has been there at other crisis times in my life when a fellow really needed a helping hand.

Bud has set a high bar for anyone to reach, with a large successful family to attest to it. He's devoted his life to helping others, and many people who otherwise didn't get a very good break in life have moved forward with Bud's help. He has been instrumental in organizing the Positive Mental Attitude Program at the Missouri State Prison, devoting many hours to visiting, counseling and helping lifers as well as parolees. He's been a force for good and many, many people in central Missouri, in prison and throughout the community and beyond can look to him as having helped them over rough spots in the road of life.

Bud, your little brother salutes you. You are the very best! You've made a difference. I've always known it even when it didn't show.

© 2005 David Agniel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,Thanks to my Uncle Denis, I was able to scroll through your writings. I enjoyed so many of them, but especially the one about your big brother, Bud, or as I know him, Puppy. I hope you write more about your brothers and the adventures you got yourselves into. I had a dream just last night about Puppy singing all his favorite songs, many that he's sung for us grandkids over the years. Your story about him is a celebration of him, and he well deserves that. Thank you for sharing your writing. Anna Marie Agniel, daughter of Ted and Donna Agniel

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uncle Dave, I'm really enjoying reading your stories.

As for old Puppy, he IS the very best! Thanks for retelling these memories.

Jim Agniel

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your memories of my grandfather's brother. It is good to hear about family and I know that he passed on a wonderful legacy to many Agniels... Tell more stories please!

Sara Agniel, daughter of Kristi & Lucien Agniel, Jr.

1:07 PM  

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