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My Big Brother and His Promise



I still remember the day my older brother got to watch me. Our parents were going to our cousins' wedding. We assumed Betty Ann, our regular sitter, would watch us. At supper the night before, Johnny asked mom if he could watch me. At first, it looked like she may let Johnny watch me. Even our father was smiling. Surely that meant they were going to let Johnny watch me. A serious look came over her face. No doubt her mind was recalling our past. One with a long record of misbehavior. "No, I don't think so. What do you think, John?" Before our father even uttered a word. Johnny and I knew the answer would be "No." We already knew. One no was as good as two. Sure enough, our father said; "Boys, I agree with your mother."

Well, case closed, end of the story, it was Betty Ann. Friday afternoon, as Johnny and I walked in from the side door. We heard mom on the phone. Whatever it was, she was not happy. "Are you sure you are sick? Well, I guess the flu would qualify as sick." When she hung up the phone. I asked her what was wrong. "Betty Ann is sick, so we have no sitter." Johnny spoke up. "What about me?" We both knew we had her. What choice did mom have? They had to leave as soon as they dressed. "Johnny, watch your brother." "No, problem mom." I thought I died and went to heaven, the fun we will have. Mom told us to wash up for supper. We went into the bathroom and as we were washing our hands. I kept telling Johnny of all the things we could do with mom and dad gone.

Johnny was not joining in on my ideas. In fact, when we sat down for supper. He was acting like an adult. He told mom and dad. "Yes, mom I will watch Brendan. No, I won't let him stay up past eleven. Yes, mom, no sodas for him. Brendan gets hyper when he has a soda." I could not believe what I was hearing. What had happened to Johnny? Did he fall and hit his head? Maybe it wasn't actually Johnny? It was an alien posing as Johnny. When I walked into the kitchen, mom was giving Johnny his last instructions. She gave him a hug and kiss and turned towards me. "Now your father and I expect you to behave and listen to your brother." Without thinking, I said; "Oh, you mean the brother that snuck out with his buddies, at one in the morning, soaping windows and toilet papering houses in the neighborhood. When they were camping out in Benoit's backyard. The same brother, that blew up our garbage can with an M80 firecracker? Then lied, saying he did not know who did it." I was not sure who was madder at me, my mom, or Johnny. All I remember was my mother saying, "Brendan, you had better listen to your brother or your father will use his belt on your butt. As for you John Michael O'Grady." Oh no, mom used Johnny's full name. We both knew when mom used our full names, we were in deep trouble. "Your father and I will deal with both of you tomorrow." Dad shouted through the screen door. "Sweetie, we have to get going or we will miss your brother walking his daughter down the aisle. I have money on him being so drunk, Annie must hold him up." Johnny and I started laughing. Our Uncle Tim liked his Irish whiskey a lot. Mom just shook her head, "John Michael O'Grady Senior. I will have enough of that. Do I need to mention your brother Sean, who lives at the racetrack." Mom kissed us and headed out to the car. Most people would think our parents were arguing. They teased each other that way. It would continue for the next thirty-nine years. Our father's passing was the only reason it stopped. Then there was Johnny. I stood there, looking out the front living room window as our parent's car disappeared from view. Home alone with a brother, I ratted out. Now was the time to ask for God's help. I begged God to protect me. I promised, if he did, I would go to Saturday morning mass for a month at St. Peter's. Still looking out the window, I saw Johnny's reflection. He was headed right for me. The anger was plain to see. My death was certain. I made the sign of the cross and prayed my death would be painless. I turned around and faced Johnny. Ready to take it like a man. "You little rat. I should beat you to a pulp. But I won't. I remember when they brought you home from the hospital. Mom made me promise I will always protect my baby brother, care for him, and remember one thing. He will forever be your younger brother. I guess tonight made me finally understand that last part. You are just a kid, and kids say stupid things." Johnny went into the kitchen. I turned on the television, then sat on the sofa. Johnny came out of the kitchen carrying two cokes and a bag of chips. He sat down next to me and said, "Listen, I promised mom, and I will keep it. No matter how stupid you are." The rest of the night, it was two brothers just having fun. Johnny has lived up to his promise to mom for sixty-six years, going on sixty-seven. My birthday will be in November. I dedicate this story to my brother, John.

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