I've been listening to them play all morning - well, in between the bouts of fighting. The banter, wrestling, balls lobbed across the living room and Legos covering the floor of the rest of the house all make me realize something. (Besides the fact that the place is a mess.) One of the very best things I ever gave my boys is a brother.
That's because a brother is more than someone to play catch with or tell scary stories to after the lights are out. He's more than a regular guy. He's a brother. And that's a difficult concept to define.
A brother is someone who borrows your socks, deodorant and best jeans, but never your girlfriend.
Brothers have the same bunk bed and the same last name, but rarely the same opinion regarding who's gonna win the Stanley Cup.
A brother is the guy who will still toss the ball around - even after it's dark out and everyone else has gone home.
A brother sticks up for you behind your back - even though you can't hear him doing it.
A brother is someone who lives at your house - even on the days when you wish he didn't.
A brother scoops the ice cream for you, because you are still too little and the ice cream is too hard.
A brother says nothing when he gets blamed for the broken window - even though he knows he had nothing to do with the baseball that shattered it.
A brother will let you take the blame for him - but only because he can't afford to get in trouble on account of it's the day he's going to the movies with the cute girl from biology class.
A brother is someone who says he bounced the ball 712 times in a row, but only because he knows your score was 711.
A brother is the one who, when you ask, "Are you sleeping yet?" always answers, "Nope."
A brother pesters you with the same questions over and over. He listens to your stories and says, "Tell me about it again!"
A brother hangs out with you - all day - even though you are fighting, because it is a Saturday and you can't go to school on Saturdays.
A brother is someone who picks on you when your mom isn't looking, but steps in to protect you when the eighth-grade bully tries to take your seat on the bus.
A brother notices that your eyes are wet and glistening after losing the big game, but he doesn't say anything about it.
A brother hugs you when no one's looking and punches you when they are.
A brother unselfishly shares secrets, jokes and germs. He lends advice and his last dollar. He provides an ear and a shoulder to lean on. He takes your bike when you aren't looking and a piece of gum from your secret stash whenever he can. He'll give you the shirt off his back and a ride to hockey practice, but never the combination of his bedroom safe.
Brothers can't be bought or bargained for, planned or premeditated. They just are. And that's beyond any definition in the dictionary. It sure is.