Jake Old: He's still my little brother
My younger brother, Alex, is graduating from high school next week, and I’ve already given him a hard time for being a little too sentimental about it, but the more I think about it, I’m starting to get emotional.
When I graduated high school in 2007, I couldn’t wait to get to the other side of that stage and out of that building forever (metaphorically speaking, anyway; the actual ceremony was held at MTSU, which is where I attended college). I rolled my eyes at the kids who were tearing up and talking about how much they would miss high school. And when Alex started acting the same way, I laughed at him. High school was just never that important to me.
I am seven years older than Alex, and I also have an older brother, Jeremy, who is seven years older than me. That created this weird dynamic — it was like I was being groomed to be an older brother, apprenticing even.
Jeremy and I have always been somewhat close, but he grew up a lot quicker than I did. He viewed a brother seven years younger than him being this little kid who got on his nerves. I viewed my little brother as a jackpot: I managed to have a second childhood, right as mine was winding down.
Full disclosure, I was not the best little brother in the world when I was younger. I destroyed many of Jeremy’s things. I publicly embarrassed him at least once that I can recall off the top of my head. I was just generally annoying most of the time.
Alex, in his younger years, was a much better younger brother than I. He (usually) didn’t touch my things. He (usually) understood when I wanted to be left alone. I can remember getting very angry at him for trivial things — he played my guitar while I was not home, oh the horror — and when I compare it to what I did to Jeremy (the slaughter of his prized comic book collection springs to mind here), I feel like a fool.
I’m certain that Jeremy has always influenced Alex as well, but because of the large age gap, there’s a bit of extra distance there. I shared a bedroom with Alex for what seemed like 500 years. We were either going to become great buddies or there was going to be great destruction throughout the Old household. Fortunately it was the former, for the most part anyway.
Even though Jeremy was always “too cool” for me, I still looked up to him and wanted to be like him. And I never really realized that Alex would look at me the same way.
I picked up the guitar when I was much younger mostly because it’s almost impossible to play an electric guitar and not look cool, but there was also the fact that my older brother played music. I eventually became obsessed with the instrument, far surpassing his playing abilities.
Of course, Alex was right there as a shadow. Because I was constantly playing music, he wanted to join in as well. When he was only about 4 or 5 years old, he got a junior acoustic guitar, scaled down to size for a smaller person. He’s kept at it, but he hasn’t quite surpassed my abilities the way that I did with Jeremy. Perhaps that’s in the future.
Alex and I now also have very similar musical tastes. I introduced him to The Beatles, now his absolutely favorite band. We’ve both always enjoyed the same sports. We like a lot of the same foods. We have the same sense of humor.
When Jeremy finished high school, he had put himself in a position so that college was not really an option. I saw how this affected him — he definitely wished he could go back and change that — and it certainly motivated me.
Some years later, he managed to go back to school and he is in the process of getting a degree now. He also has a wonderful family that he provides and cares for, setting an example not just for me, but for the rest of the siblings as well (five total, just to be clear).
Jeremy influenced who I am, and I passed that down to Alex. It’s weird to think of him graduating high school and going on to whatever academic or creative endeavors that await him, being all grown up. He’s still my little brother.
I hope that I can still have some positive influence left in the tank for my little brother, maybe even indirectly and completely unintentionally. Because my big brother is still influencing me all the time, whether or not he realizes it.