Most of my life, I have looked up to Matthew as a protector and care-taker, so one of the most difficult challenges I have come to face over the past few months has been the drastic flip-flop of roles between my older brother and myself. Of course, I love spending time with Matthew, but that doesn't mean it's easy having to be the responsible sibling.
Yes, as we both grew older and closer, I came to view my brother as an equal, but I still felt like a little sister in many ways. No matter how many times Matthew asked me for advice about girls or complained to me about our parents, I always regarded him as inherently slightly wiser, stronger, and more prepared to handle the world. When I look at him now, and I see the progress he has made over the past four months, I know I was right to regard him in this way. However, I am also hit over the head with the reality of my brother's natural, human vulnerability. Being an older brother, fighter of ex-boyfriends, master of secret keeping, did not make Matthew the superhero I so wanted him to be.
The first time I realized being an older brother did not endow Matthew with super-human powers, he was probably around twelve. This was about the time that Matthew really hated being around me. I wanted to be his little tag-along, tomboy sister, but he just wanted me to go away.
I remember one day, for some reason, Matthew decided to initiate a tickle fight with me. Well, I don't know if we can call this a fight because I was no match for the power of my brother's tickles. I writhed on the couch, both hating my brother for the torture through which he put me and loving that he was actually spending time with me. The only way I knew to protect myself was to attempt to fling my body in every which direction until I could free myself from his grasp. I flopped and I flailed, and eventually, one of my feet flew right into my brother's crotch.
The tickling ceased immediately. My brother doubled over like one of those guys on America's Funniest Home Videos who comes into contact with a tee-baller's haphazard swing. Only, this wasn't funny to either of us.
I apologized and pleaded for forgiveness, but Matthew could catch his breath only long enough to scold me and tell me to get away.
Matthew, apparently, doesn't even remember this happening. But to me, this will always stick out as the exact moment I realized my older brother does not, in fact, have balls of steel.