By Grant McGee: Local columnist
My sister-in-law called not too long ago. She was planning a surprise birthday party for my brother and wanted us to be there.
It was his 60th birthday and she wanted it to be a family event. She wanted to make it work, make it happen.
My brother lives all the way over in southern Florida. To us, flying is a hassle and driving there and back takes a week. We realized we wouldn’t be able to go to this party.
I didn’t want to drop the ball on my brother’s milestone birthday. Then I had a light-bulb-over-the-head idea. I’d make a video recording and send it to him. I borrowed a video recorder, set it up on a tripod and began recording as I sat in front of our back-yard shed on a sunny day.
I wished my brother a happy 60th birthday. I then went on to share fun things, weird things, good things about his life.
Like when I was an itty-bitty kid and he was my much-older big brother he’d sit on my head and pass gas. This was big fun to him but not me. As fast as I’d squirm free I’d run to tell Mom while my brother laughed heartily.
We grew up living in hotels because our father was a hotel manager. I remembered that time my brother dropped half-a-dozen eggs one-by-one on the sidewalk 14 stories below. We laughed as people jumped when the eggs exploded nearby. Hotel security was not amused, neither was our father.
For a while my brother was a Boy Scout troop leader and would sometimes join my troop for campouts. Looking into the camera with a smile I remembered one of these outings when he used his Bowie knife to play “mumbly-peg” with one of my troop’s leaders. If you’re not familiar with “mumbly-peg,” it’s a game of “chicken” involving your feet and a big knife. And a Bowie knife is a mighty big knife.
No sooner had the game begun than the knife was sticking in my brother’s foot. We all looked at each other. He reached down, pulled it out and the blood began to ooze from his shoe. What struck me the most was that he was laughing about it.
I looked in the camera and thanked my brother for all the advice he gave me over the years. For instance he told me about the importance of living within your means; don’t spend money you don’t have. He also told me about the importance of saving money and “working smarter, not harder,” two things I’m still trying to do.
I told him I appreciated the advice he gave me that I didn’t follow, advice that in my “old age” I realize made sense. For instance, when I didn’t finish college he advised me to join the Army, because as he said, “They’ll get your head on straight.” Maybe they would’ve, I’ll never know.
And now that I’m ready to get my head on straight I’m too old for them.
I closed the video by wishing my brother a happy 60th birthday and sending love to him and his family.
A few days after his birthday, my brother called me to thank me for the thoughtful gift. It meant a lot to him.
I was glad.
Because he means a lot to me.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: