Soon my oldest big bro, B1, will be 60.
I love /like/ admire him because he:
- goes out of his way to be generous
- is not judgemental
- was playful with his kids and enjoyed their company
- enjoys his children still, even though they have left home
- has a strong sense of duty
- is thoughtful
- introduced me to the blues and some of the other music I love
- just gets on with it, even if he has no natural aptitude for some of it
- is a staunch Essendon supporter
- has a great sense of humour
He developed his con-merchant skills as a paper boy, selling the Herald [a now defunct afternoon newspaper] outside pubs during the years of the six-o'clock swill. [Back in the days before alcohol could be sold after 6 pm, men on their way home from work would stop at their local and compete to see who could drink the most before the publican called "time".]
The paper cost 3d [three pence] and he made a lot in tips by taking too long to dig out change of a sixpence.
At 14 he went to work with an insurance company, starting as a filing clerk. He increased his income and prospects by happily moving around the state [then the country] relieving clerks who were on holidays.
When his kids were still toddlers, he accepted a position as Pacific Region Manager for his company, and he and family rented out their Sydney home, and moved to Port Moresby in New Guinea. It was still a bit of a wild town, so they lived in a compound, protected by a dingo named Azaria.
While touring Europe the family went to check out the Vatican, as Catholics [and others] do. A couple of tourists standing near them in St Peter's square said hello, addressing them all by name: Their next door neighbours from Sydney.
When it was time for N1 and N2 to start secondary school they all returned to Sydney, where B1 and my sister in law [SIL 1]still live, next door to the same people they encountered in St Peter's Square.
While living in New Guineau, B1 neglected to do anything about the mole on his shin which had gone a bit weird, but back in Australia it started to spread badly - it was malignant, of course. To make sure he removed the melanoma completely, the surgeon removed a massive slab of his shin, which now sports a huge crater, with just a thin layer of skin tissue covering his tibia. In public, if he gets to talking with young kids [still young enough to be honest about their curiosity], he tells them a long story about his heroic struggle with a shark during a world surfing championship comp at Bell's Beach. Then he admits he lied and asks them why they aren's wearing a hat or sunscreen.
A Sunday morning ritual at home, for many years, was for the whole family to watch the midday movie. In keeping with the then high standard of Australian television, the movie was invariably a spaghetti western or a gladiator movie. Both types were always dubbed in English, so the sound and pictures of people talking were always out of sync.
We never watched these movies because they were great movies but because it was hilarious fun to compete to see who could find the most witty ways to rubbish the movie, inventing back stories, motives, or guessing what the original dialogue might have been before the movie was dubbed.
Once, when he was about 25, he found himself at home for a weekend at the same time I was there. He kept nagging my mother to give him something for dessert after tea - stirring is something he can do relentlessly. To shut him up, I offered to make him some custard, asking him whether he preferred it thin and runny, or thick. "Vanilla slice thick, please." Not bothering about presentation, I soon handed him a saucepan full of custard so thick the wooden spoon in it was wedged upright, which might have been funnier if he hadn't proceeded to eat the lot.
The Other and I are hoping to make it to Sydney next weekend for the big occasion, but if we don't make it, B1 and SIL 1 will still have a great day, because their first grandchild will be visiting from Melbourne. Yes, I'm a great aunt again - that's great, not just average.
Happy Birthday, B1. You are now officially an old fart.