Sunday, September 03, 2006

King Of The Underdogs

When my older brother, Matt, was a very young man, he had an obsession with characters of fiction who were, by nature, the underdog. One prime example, and of my earliest recollection, was none other than king of the underdogs himself, Charlie Brown. Charles Schulz's beloved American icon has spent over fifty years in the public eye, trying to get it right. Like Charlie Brown, Matt has always had a driving desire to press on, even after falling down several times in the process. He's never been one to grasp at the gold ring in the athletic sense (like me, he detests sports), but he's always set untraditional goals for himself. For example, another continuous theme throughout his life--and one that continues today--is an interest in fish-out-of-water stories. Perhaps this stems from the character of Charlie Brown (honestly, did old Chuck really have any business setting foot on the football field at all?). But how many eight-year-old boys do you know who try to get their family to uproot everything to move out to Marceline, Missouri, boyhood home of Walt Disney? Could it be his fascination with Eddie Albert's character in Green Acres? Or could it be that he wanted to be the voice of reason in a small town of zany characters, much like Andy Taylor in Mayberry? Or maybe it was the idea of living in the very town that inspired Mickey Mouse.

But if an eight-year-old being obsessed with Mickey Mouse isn't considered "untraditional," then try being a devoted collector of classical music at the tender age of thirteen. While his classmates were singing the praises of Quiet Riot, Matt was "boppin' to the beat" of Johann Sebastian Bach on his Sony Walkman. Despite the ridicule from his peers, Matt listened to what appealed to him. I always knew my brother was different from others, but I always thought there was something exceptionally cool about being the only kid in school to be listening to something that was written by a person who died over three hundred years ago.

To this very day, I believe Matt's interest in classical music is what made him turn his attention toward God. And maybe if it weren't for this music, he may have never gone off to seminary and become an Episcopal Priest. Which means he wouldn't have performed the wedding ceremony for Lisa and me, and countless other people we know. It also means that he wouldn't have been there to help bury Fran and Lloyd Fish's son, Mark, ten years ago.

Matt and I have grown closer and closer over the years. He's been there for me on some of my darkest days and has been a continous support system for me. There have been a few months in the past couple of years where we have spoken on the phone every single day for hours on end. In all honesty, I don't think I could have made it without him. And I know that he'll continue being there for me. Whenever he comes to town, the two of us always make plans to meet for coffee. I'll always tell people that, despite being together for a few hours, it's never enough time. He's the only person who I feel completely understands me one hundred percent. There's something very comforting about having a person like that in your life.

Today is Matt's thirty-sixth birthday. And he's still the same fellow he was growing up. I could go on and on, just like one of our talks. It doesn't seem like I have a place where I can wrap it up, so I'll have to do so with a little story. As my devoted readers can attest, my stories are generally full of irony and there is nothing more ironic than the one that I'm about to write. Matt's fascination with Charlie Brown is one thing that didn't really continue. I think there's still a place in Matt's heart for the little underdog, but it just wasn't the same after the particular day that I'm about to lay out for you.

In grade school, there was a bully who rode on the bus with us. I can't say how old Matt and I were at the time, but I would venture to guess that I was in first grade and he was in third. Anyway, this young man was a year or so older than Matt and somewhat taller. He sat in the back of the bus and continually ridiculed those who were younger and smaller than him. There were several occasions where I was his target. This went on, for what seemed like, the entire school year. Finally, one day, the bully had me cornered in the back of the bus and Matt worked up the courage to get up out of his seat to approach him.

Matt crept up behind him and cleared his throat. The young man turned around.

"What the hell do you want?" he asked.

Matt took a deep breath and said "I'm tired of you treating people like this. I want to know your name because I'm going to tell the principal what you've been doing."

The young man laughed and pushed Matt aside so he could walk back up toward the front of the bus. Matt followed and grabbed him by the arm.

"I said I want to know your name so I can report you to the principal."

The kid turned around, punched Matt in the stomach and said, "My name is Charlie Brown. Tell THAT to the principal."

Matt went home with an aching stomach that day. But not before he reported the kid to the principal and had him thrown off the bus. And, in case your wondering, the kid's name really was Charlie Brown. He wasn't being sarcastic.

Please take the time to wish Matt a happy birthday. Because he'll do the same for you when the time comes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday to a great brother-in-law and godfather to our baby girl. Love you.

03 September, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday again to another great brother. Had a good time the other night. Rock on.


05 September, 2006  
Blogger Der Kerfolger said...

Happy Birthday, Matt! I hope you have a great day.

05 September, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you had a wonderful birthday!

05 September, 2006  
Anonymous Mom said...

Even though it's a few days after the fact, happy birthday, Matt. You & your brothers are the greatest guys I know, along with your dad. I love the story Mark wrote about you, & it was all true.


08 September, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, guys. I love you all.


09 September, 2006  

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