(As in a “vibes” sense, nothing incestuously untowards).
My big brother Michael.
I’ve written a passage on Papa Henio. A manuscript on Mummy Deb. Jammed out the diegesis on the Brother James. But Michael was a subject matter I was somewhat tentative to cover; not because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, I’ll clarify, but because I didn’t know quite how I wanted to say it.
Michael is 19 months older than me, meaning we were brought up doing everything together. From toddlerhood, that lad was my hero; he could turn a block of wood into the most exciting game – usually somehow related to water skiing – and his tendency to boss me about meant I always knew what part to play. He was domineering, the commander of our doubleton, and I thought he was the absolute shit.
We had a really cool little jeep when we were about three and four that Michael attached a wooden “motor” to and made into a boat. I was never allowed to drive – no sir, such was a role bestowed only on Michael himself and very seldomly, his best friend Nick Swain – but I didn’t mind in the slightest. I was happy to be the slalomer holding onto the rope behind it, Michael navigating up and down our neighbour’s driveway as I circled the plastic bottle “buoys” and tried to execute Michael’s ski “coaching” (“Hips up Poppy! Turn in front of the buoy, not when you get to it”). We would play fish-and-chip-shop (Michael the preparer, cooker, counter server and wrap-up-er-er; me the customer who got to eat the crust “fish”), Being Hank (pretty much, Michael would dress up as Dad and pretend to be him while I sat at my “desk” as Dawn the receptionist, playing with a thimble she gifted me one time) and camping (under sheets anywhere we could erect a “tent”). He was so full of imagination and life force, I just adored and idolised him; I was more than happy to do whatever he said.
I remember as I got a bit older and developed a bit more of an assertive personality (I.e., my bitch popped out to say hello and my mellow nature wasn’t my constant go) Michael and I started to bicker. Not all the time, just as most siblings would, but it really upset my young self. When we moved to Auckland (at age 10 and eight) I thought it would be the glue to get us back as best chums; we both knew no one, so surely we’d band and be a twain again? But it wasn’t the case; we grew up, we grew apart, and the days of duodom were gone.
Up until recently I’ve always maintained that Michael and myself are insanely different. In every single way. Looks, temperament, personality, the lot. But in my more aware being, I’ve started to see that we are actually somewhat similar. We both have powerful personalities, don’t back down (even when we are wrong), are a tad arrogant and both like to talk about ourselves. We both consider Papa Henio’s word the Bible (I don’t think that will ever change), take no bullshit from people close to us and when something is really, really, really funny, we both collapse in hysterics and are uncontrollable (usually it’s at the Brother James).
But Michael has a lot of traits that I don’t possess. He is the most loyal and interested grandson I have ever met – his reverent keeping up with our Opa is just exceptional. He calls him every second day or so for no other reason that to genuinely ask how he is and what he’s been up to, and goes over to see him and my Babcia far more often than I ever make time to do. He’s the first to be there when excretion flings into the ventilator; he doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations or situations, but heads right in there with words of encouragement or a hand to help should it be needed. And I’m incredibly envious of his self confidence; we always laugh that his catchphrase is, “I’m the man”, but to believe in yourself to such a high esteem is what makes him so successful in his job and personal life.
Plus, I covet something of his with vehemence – his hair. My word, his glorious crown of natural ombré tresses would be very well received on myself (why is it that the older bro got the lengthy, lush locks and the junior got the cashmere olive skin? How much better would they be on the female of the fam?).
Michael had his first child last year (well, his fiancé Rachel did really but he was present in the, ah, invention of the infant), whom was named Hendrik (III; same name as both Opa and Papa Henio. Though he forwent the middle appellation of “Cornelius” in favour of “Kane”, Michael’s favourite WWF wrestler of his adolescent years). And he has proved to be the greatest, most hands on dad (Michael, not Hendrik III). He’s involved, interested and in love with his offspring and seeing him in such a way instills a real sense of pride in me. At first when I witnessed him in such a role I was astounded at his abilities, but then I wasn’t really at all; somehow, I always knew he’d just be good at it.
I can be a bit dismissive of Michael, mainly because I feel he can be a bit dismissive of me (what came first? Chicken-or-egg conundrum). But in the last few years he’s really stepped up to the plate and hit a home run – literally, as the case is, having brought their first family home in June just gone. And I’ve realised that that growing apart when I was younger was the natural order of things really; it was nothing to do with us not liking each other (at least not below the surface) or not wanting to be a part of each other’s lives. It’s my read-into-things-too-much-sensitive-side coming out and making cessations, when in reality it was just a ten-year-old boy wanting to play PS1 with the boy down the street, rather than his little lippy sister.
Michael is a good guy. He’s there when he’s needed, he’s loyal and straight up, and he is an applausable parent. Although I’d never really say it to his face, I’m hugely hubristic of him and what he’s made of himself.
He is the man.