With brothers like these, who needs enemies?

Published 9:43 pm Friday, January 4, 2008

By Staff
By Ray McKeithan
Holidays are about family. There is something uniquely special about being with people who know everything about you.
When you’re with your family, you leave all pretension behind. You can’t escape from history or your birth order. You have to be your true self (because you have no other choice).
On Saturday, we observed a noteworthy event, but it wasn’t a holiday. Two years ago — on New Year’s Eve — my father passed away. Herbert McKeithan Jr. was a good man who loved his family. He also loved cookouts in his backyard.
Last year, we started a new family tradition. The last weekend of the year is now reserved for a family gathering to honor his memory. What better way to do so, than with a cookout in his backyard? Our patriarch would be proud.
Herb’s children all agree that he seemed happiest when he was outside — with family and friends — overseeing a cooking operation of some sort. He specialized in stews cooked in black cast-iron pots over an open fire.
We try to make him proud and imagine him with us (because he is). He would enjoy these fun gatherings. Except last year, he may have wanted to “jerk a knot” in a few heads. (The preacher and associate were in attendance this year. Enough said.)
Sibling rivalry is alive and well in the McKeithan clan. Hear now the sad story of two of my brothers. (I’ll get to the other siblings in future offerings. Unless a cease-and-desist order is enforced.)
I’m the youngest of six kids … by five minutes. I followed my twin brother Clay into the world and was happy to act in a supporting role for many years. Clay wanted the spotlight. No, he demanded it. “Fine, you can have it,” I must have gurgled in baby talk.
My oldest brother, Mac, didn’t have to vie for attention. He is “Herb-the-third” and received all of the coddling you would expect for a namesake.
Fast-forward two-score and a handful of years: Things have changed.
You see, Clay and Mac are jealous of me, and it shows. These two children team up on me because I’m the one who gets all of the attention now. (It was just a matter of time.)
There are several possible causes. Could it be because I’m “white collar” and they’re “blue collar?” (Our Mom’s theory.) Is it because I can put words together and form a sentence? Is it because I have hair?
I suspect the real underlying reason is because our Mom loves me most. So, they act out.
Where they’re concerned, trash talking is not reserved for the basketball court. Isn’t it sad when grown men have to put a little brother down to build themselves up?
Growing-up, we had two dogs that also made an unlikely pair. Chris was a huge Saint Bernard and Ranger was a devoted boxer. Separately, they were sweet and docile creatures. Together, they brought out the worst in each other. These two beasts terrorized the neighborhood. They scared or attacked every person, cat and mailman they encountered. Eventually, Chris and Ranger had to be separated and banished to life on farms “out in the country somewhere.”
Do you see the moral of this story, my brothers? Pay attention.
On Saturday, you would have thought that I had stolen the terrible-twosome’s (“TT”) pacifiers. They had a collective chip on their shoulders because they had to do most of the work and preparation for the cookout. (I would have done it myself, but I couldn’t get away from my “white collar” job here at the WDN.)
However, I made up for it when I arrived. Here’s a comparison of our workload to prove that I, indeed, did my fair share:
Me: Ate the oysters.
Me: Sat in chair.
Me: Commented, “The trout is a little undercooked.”
Me: Took a “cat nap.”
Me: Walked guests to their cars.
Honestly, I don’t know how they can call me lazy. I must have handed out at least 20 napkins. They had absolutely no cause to groan when I said, “I’m pooped.”
We are taught to love our enemies. I have empathy for my brothers who are stuck in the dark shadows of my rising star. I feel sorry for them, but can’t condone their childish antics.
Dear brothers; change your ways before Mama banishes you to farms “out in the country.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.