My Big Brother

There was a time when when the term 'Big Brother' (pre-Orwell's 1984) had only good connotations associated with it; those are what I grew up with in reference to my only brother and sibling. I don't know if big brothers are born or are made – only that after we grew to the age of discretion, he was truly my 'big brother' in every important way: friend, protector, mentor---and I only wish we had lived closer together and had been able to share many more moments and memories.

I'll gloss over the very early years (filled with the usual kids fighting, etc. - I actually remember the first time I told our mother that Ed hadn't made me cry that day!); I'm sure I often provoked him, but had the advantage of being younger and a girl to shift blame easily. I should have asked him if he remembered when I would chase him with a hot iron or the perfume atomizer---and then yell for help from a parent anyway.

We didn't live in a neighborhood of East Lansing that had a lot of playmates, so Ed convinced me that I should be the pal he needed to play catch with or learn tennis or ice skating. (I must say all that stood me in good stead to tolerate the sports enthusiasms of my sons later on.) Ed was always very patient with all this, seeming to forgive my inevitable clumsiness. I especially remember listening to radio broadcasts of the Detroit Tigers and having to be responsible for knowing the lineups of the pre-war American League teams. (I did find it difficult to observe his abandonment of the Tigers to embrace the Red Sox Nation; I wish I had asked him which team---UMO or UofM---he supported in hockey games, but I can make a good guess; so much for some kinds of loyalty!)

But World War II came along, and changed so many lives: our dad went off to the Army, and Ed graduated early from high school to start academic life at the University of Michigan with me following three years later, still benefitting from his desire to do the right thing. He insisted we get tickets to the concert series, go to the hockey and swim meets – in addition to his generous assistance with the music and science courses for which I had no aptitude. Even though our paths diverged eventually, he had the courage to help me learn to parallel park (we both came late to driving cars) while visiting California shortly before he and Jean married.

Ed never used sarcasm in teaching me things – a tactic I've always deplored in academics – and listened to my opposing opinions respectfully and with an open mind. He had eclectic tastes and read widely in non-fiction areas, showing no embarrassment at ignoring the local famous author, but willingly showing me that author's home, the 'cemetery,' and flagship bookstore in Bangor when I visited. Ed didn't need to use the usual platitudes of affection toward his family – we all are the beneficiaries of his love and concern – and I only hope he felt the reciprocity as well.

Ed's example of kindness and integrity will always be a beacon to me and those who knew him – nothing finer can be said about anyone.