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Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Brother Doesn't Keep His Promises

I am about five years older than my younger brother. Because of the age difference, we never really fought, but we also didn't have much in common. He, like my older brother, is a very intelligent person, but he has a few social quirks. I'm not sure if it's a result of being so much younger than Brian and I, or if maybe something we did contributed to it (we used to like to throw a blanket over his head and pretend to hold it down over him. Evidently, he was claustrophobic, so we wouldn't actually have to hold it down, and he would just lie in a lump under it and scream. In retrospect, I think we were terrible older siblings), but for whatever reason, he's always been a very independent, relatively quiet person.

He, much like me, suffers from being a "stupid smart person." I once asked him what month was the 8th month (he was at least in junior high at this point), and he not only couldn't tell me off the top of his head, but he had no idea that months had corresponding numbers with which to identify them. He was, however, currently reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time." After talking on the phone to someone, if asked what they said immediately upon hanging up, he couldn't tell you if his life depended on it. But he can build a computer from scratch.

He's also always been a very contemplative person. When he was just two years old, he would sit quietly in a chair in a room by himself and think. If you asked what he was doing, he'd calmly reply, "just thinking of something."

Because of his known thoughtful demeanor, it was especially disconcerting one day when he was three years old, sitting calmly and thinking by himself, and turned to me and said, "When I'm 21, I'm going to get an ax and cut your head off."

We hadn't been arguing or fighting (and I don't think we'd started the blanket-torture game yet), and he had stated his intentions so matter-of-factly, I got chills. I remember running to my mom and screaming, "Brett said he's going to cut my head off with an ax!!"

My poor mother sighed. "Where is he going to get an ax? Does he have one now? If not, you're probably safe." I explained that he said he would do it when he was 21 (most likely, he figured he'd have to be 21 - a legal adult - before he could purchase his own head-cutting-off ax; he really had put a lot of thought into this) and she brushed off my urgency, "Well then, you've got a few years left."

My mother might not have been concerned about the future of her children, but she hadn't seen the completely calm, sane, rational look in his eyes when he made his fateful promise. He'd thought out the logistics, and his plan had been set in place. At the innocent young age of three, he set our destinies in stone.

Over the years, I thought on and off about this incident (more off than on), and occasionally counted down the years I had left to live. I didn't really believe he was going to get an ax and cut my head off, but the thought did frequently resurface, just to remind me of its existence.

A year and a half ago, when I was planning a gigantic Thanksgiving feast at our house, a terrifying realization dawned on me. Brett would not only be attending our festivities, but he would be celebrating his 21st birthday just six days prior. I tried to push the thought out of my mind, reassuring myself that he had not only not meant what he said, but surely he'd forgotten it nearly 17 years later. But I hadn't.

I told Husband about my fears. He laughed at me (in retrospect, the logical reaction to have), and told me I was being ridiculous. Of course Brett had forgotten. Such a sympathetic man I married.

We had 17 adults and two kids at our Thanksgiving-fest-o-rama. I figured this was the best protection possible. Even if Brett had remembered, and had been serious, it would be hard to get me alone to cut my head off. He clearly wasn't insane enough to cut my head off in front of 15 other people. Plus, he'd had to fly into town - an ax was blatantly not going to make it through TSA security (he'd only brought carry-on luggage). I made sure we didn't have a ax lying anywhere around our house, and double checked to ensure the neighbors' garages were all closed, in the unlucky scenario that they had axes stowed away.

Thanksgiving evening, after everyone was full of delicious food and drink, and we were sitting around playing Mexican Train Dominoes, my fearless protector thought it would be an appropriate time to reminisce.

"Hey Brett!" Husband called out. "Do you remember telling Laura you were going to get an ax and cut her head off when you were 21?" Brett, maintaining his composure, laughed and simply said, "no."

After recollecting for him the story of his calm 3-year old coolness as he swore to be the purveyor of my demise, we all had a good laugh. Brett claimed not to remember the incident and found it especially humorous that I'd been mildly concerned about his threat for the past 17 years. A good performance, for sure.

The weekend ended without head-chopping-off incident. I saw Brett again once during that year, but didn't bring up the ax-promise, and managed to keep my head secured to my neck through the visit.

When his birthday rolled around again last November, I breathed a sigh of relief. Brett was no longer 21. I was free! He hadn't cut my head off with an ax (not that I ever really thought he would, right?). In my state of jubilation, I excitedly told Husband the good news - my life was no longer at risk!!

Husband greeted my enthusiasm with his infuriating logic, "Yeah, unless he just meant at least 21 years old. Since he didn't specify that it would happen 'during his 21st year,' he feasibly could have meant any time after he turned 21. Guess you're not safe after all."

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