When I asked Declan what he was up to, during a phone conversation earlier this week, he ever-so-casually let me know that he was "just on a great adventure with Gwamma." No biggie, just a great adventure. While I know he misses home as much as I miss him, I also know he is having the time of his life.
After spending several weeks with his mother he is onto the second leg of his summer vacation, a family reunion in Idaho. Not only is my mother spoiling him like only a grandmother can, but he is surrounded by cousins his age and aunts and uncles that are a lot more fun to be around than plain old Dad.
The eldest of my younger brothers, Declan's Uncle Mike, is three years behind me and was my partner in crime in most of my youthful adventures. His son Isaac is even closer to Declan's age and the two of them have got to be having a grand time indeed.
Mike and I didn't always see eye-to-eye, he enjoyed skateboarding and I was more into basketball, but we had some fun times in our youth. When we weren't setting the local sewer system ablaze with firecrackers (in my defense I had no idea the neighbor was dumping paint thinner in that gutter the day before) we would often trek to the local golf course and swim in the shallower ponds for golf balls to sell back to the golfers.
Mike was always more gifted with his hands than I was, he had a knack for tinkering with engines and woodworking, eventually becoming an incredible craftsman. But back then he was just my little brother and I had a knack for getting him into trouble. I would talk, pressure, nag, bribe or otherwise convince him that whatever idiot idea I had would be great for him to test out.
I can't help but laugh every time I think of the golf ball that sailed into my view and struck him in the back one summer day. His first, instinctive, reaction was to scream "Bruce!" and glare at me, knowing that even though I was standing in front of him, it was still somehow my fault. It was a heck of a drive and incredible odds that the golf ball actually hit my brother, thankfully only in the back and without serious injury caused.
He was right to some degree though, it was my idea to fetch golf balls from the pond located in the middle of the course and he did most of the ball retrieval work while I stayed on the shore, there might have been snakes in that water after all. We split the profits evenly of course, that's what brothers do.
I don't laugh so much when I think of the neighbors dog biting him on another day. I remember stopping and pointing at the dog as Mike ran home screaming for Mom, "I'm gonna get you for this!" I told the dog. He just stared blankly back at me.
We were walking home when we noticed the dog had gotten out of their backyard while they were out of town. Mike attempted to pick up the smaller-breed dog and it snapped at him and chased him for a few feet, barking all the while and nearly biting him.
I came up with the idiotically ingenious idea for Mike to try and pick the dog up again while I held their backyard gate open. Mike would then run into the backyard with the dog chasing him and I would slam the gate behind the two of them. I instructed Mike he would then have to circle back to the fence and climb over it to freedom.
It was the perfect plan, what could go wrong?
Well the dog was apparently even more irritated with Mike's second effort at picking him up and promptly bit my younger brother as soon as he got close enough.
The bite wasn't serious, at least not as far as I recall, which may be why I never exacted the revenge I so angrily vowed I would have that day, as we ran home screaming for Mom.
As we aged our paths have continued to separate and eventually Mike and I stopped talking to each other altogether, but I take some comfort in knowing our younger selves have been reunited, at least for a few weeks this summer, in the form of our mischievous sons.
Whichever of the two is the mastermind for their grand adventures, he will certainly be more qualified than I ever was.