Barry is my brother. He is absolutely incredible. Absolutely. Incredible.
The first picture of Barry and I shows us sleeping on the blue carpet of our home in Freeport, Maine. Barry's arm is wrapped around me in a gesture of philladelphy. Nobody would guess that we had collapsed in this posture after hours of wrestling.
That is the way it was, and is. We are too close to let our expressions of love for each other be limited to niceties.
I remember Barry first and most as an explorer. He loved to tramp -- a word which perfectly describes the process of exploring woods and fields filled with slanting sunshine, raspberry thickets, and danger unknown. On the steepest parts of the ravine behind our house, Barry would sled and mountain bike in places where nobody else had tried, and nobody else would follow. Barry climbed huge pine trees all through the woods, and once fell about 60 feet through the limbs to the ground below when a dead branch broke under his feet. He was ok, except for a badly lacerated back. That was a miracle.
Barry is shy. When he was little, he gave strangers a berth as wide as the radius of mom's skirts. To say that went away isn't wrong, it's just untrue; Barry now meets new people with the same deep courage and style that he uses in steep places.
When Barry was 9, he took the laser (a 16-ft sailing dinghy) out by himself. When he was about a mile out from our dock, the boat dumped. Barry dry-capsized, which means that he climbed over the vertical side of the boat and sat on the centerboard. He wasn't heavy enough to right the boat, so he had to wait until a lobsterman caught sight of him, and used his trap hook to grab the tip of the mast and set the boat upright.
The two of us used to play "animals" every day. "Animals" was a full theatrical production managed by Barry, the players were a large chest of stuffed animals. The lines of the production were predictable in only one way: it was always war. In every other respect, every day was a breathtaking masterpiece on its own. Barry created every animal with layer upon layer of personality, and then contrived to execute complicated plotlines, impersonating each animal personally. I loved every minute of it, I was absolutely enthralled.
Barry was a pioneer of the stair-jumping phase which I talked about in my post on Paul. He still holds the record for the highest jump -- that jump incindentally damaged some nearby wallboard. I always used that as a excuse to avoid the jump myself.
Barry got a two-man tent, and we eventually decided to camp out in the woods. We set up our tent in the daylight, and then made our way by flashlight to our tent at night. Our tent was snug with sleeping bags, pads, and piles of blankets. Our boisterous conversation quickly gave way to a pervading silence. I was immediately afraid, and after 10 agonized minutes, I let Barry know it. He bolstered my courage with a generous infusion of his own, and we might have lasted 'til the morning except for the sudden scream of a screech owl. We fled.
One winter night, Barry and I donned two of our Dad's white lab coats hanging in the laundry room, and went by moonlight on our cross-country skis to spy out the far fields which had recently been sprinkled with some new houses. When we got close, we took off our skis and crept through the darkness past the houses. I was thrilled to be doing something so dangerous with my brother.
I loved rooming with Barry in college. He faced challenges there with incredible courage. He was an explorer. I'm ordinately proud of my brother because: 1. He has arrived 2. He still explores
Paul is my oldest brother. He is awesome. (P.Y. = Paul years.)
0-6 P.Y. : I didn't know him. Pictures show a mischief cherub with a natural bent for raspberries. He loved Barry, who appeared on the scene in 3 P.Y, and John (6 P.Y.), despite the fact that he had hoped for a little sister.
6-12 P.Y. : In 6 P.Y. Paul canoed 110 miles of wilderness river with Dad and Bey (his hardy traveling teddy-bear). So began a lifelong love of white-water canoeing. Around 9 P.Y., Paul initiated a time of stair-jumping in our house. We would pile all our clothes and bedding at the bottom of the stairs and jump from as high as we dared. On high-energy days, we played an indoor form of tag called "Guilty Guy," for reasons that have long since abdicated. Two brothers would chase the third to the tune of a yodeling record from the 70's. Successful evasion usually required creative use of furniture.
12-16 P.Y. : Paul learns to sail, and the three brothers set off on the first of many overnight sailing trips to islands in Casco Bay. Paul remained physically small while all of his friends seemed to sprout overnight. He held his own during these years with a penetrating faculty for wit and riposte. Paul read exhaustively during these years. At one time, he read all the parenting books that Mom and Dad kept in their room, and honed his understanding by teaching Barry and I the psychology they contained. I remember watching Paul read a book, listen to a tape, reenact a civil war battle with pinto beans, and soak in the bathtub all at once. Incredible.
We played a lot of hockey in the winters on our pond. Sometimes, we played in big games, and I remember watching in anger as Paul got knocked around by insecure 15-year olds about a foot taller than he was. Around this time, one of Dad's patients invited Paul to help bring a 50-ft sailboat from the Bahamas to Maine by way of Bermuda. Paul accepted, and came back with some well-founded confidence.
A 3-month trip to Nepal drew our family together. Paul, Barry, and I came back as brothers with intense loyalty and love for each other. After that trip, Paul started touring extensively with the New England Youth Ensemble as a violist, and, as a guy who could pack a bus really, really well.
16-18 P.Y.: Paul grew and got strong in one summer, working landscaping at a local retirement village with David Penner. Hockey that winter was a different story: Paul not only held his own, he let players who would bully smaller players cool off in a snowdrift.
Paul got his license, and for two winters, we went snowboarding almost every week with the Gerrans brothers in our ancient Volvo. Paul drove faster back then: I remember the sound an old volvo makes when approaching 100 mph on back roads. Paul was an active leader in our church, and always made a point of pulling outsiders in.
The three brothers went on an Austrailia/NZ tour with NEYE the summer before Paul went to college. On that trip, Paul decided to go to Columbia Union College.
18-25 P.Y.: Paul went away to college. In his senior year there, he met Petra Houmann, the girl he would marry the summer after his second year of law school at Washington and Lee University. After Law school, he accepted a position with AHI to become the C.E.O. of Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia. Last summer, I went there for a month to spend some time with my brother and new sister.
It was a different Paul. His mind, honed by three years of Law school, was fit enough to handle the incredible negotiating challenges that assailed him every day. But he was the same too; leaping off proverbial heights, multitasking like the boy in the bathtub, driving fast, and caring most about the little people. The people who got overlooked, bullied, and knocked down -- those people found a friend... a brother ... my brother.