Growin' Up With Mike
Yep, that's my big brother, Mike. Walking fast, always in a hurry, wound-up, politically incorrect, Mike. He is my oldest brother and will be 61 this December. Hard to believe! But, despite him getting up there in years, he still listens to Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zepplin and plays air guitar on a regular basis.
I don't think Mike grew up past the age of maybe 28. That's when his aging (or should I say maturity) stopped. But that's a good thing.
Mike has always been a cool guy. (That's him on the right). I think he likes to think so too. I'm proud that he's my brother (Billy too, but again, that's another story). I have always been proud of Mike, except for the time that we got into a scuffle in a hotel room when I was about 5 years old and I kicked him in the shin and he ran to our dad yelling "Susan kicked me in the shin!" My dad was very upset with me and I couldn't talk to Mike for the rest of the evening. Dad scurried me off to bed. I think I was bugging him to play some game with me or something and he wasn't interested. I can't blame him actually. I mean, I am almost 12 years younger than he so he would have been about 16 or 17 when we went on this family trip. I don't know of a 16 yr old boy who wants to play games with his baby sister, do you?
I have always looked up to my brother, Mike, despite the fact that he told me to "shut up" and "get lost" 90% of the time. Either that or he completely ignored me. The other 10% of the time he'd say something like "Yeah, what do you want?" or "I can't be bothered." This is normal sibling conversation, right? I always thought so. Not much has changed, really, except now I don't kick him in the shins.
I love this picture (above). I think it is my favorite picture of all time. That's Mike on the right and Billy on the left. That's me - wide eyed and bushy tailed peeking out over the crib rails. Wasn't I adorable? Still am. I'm still adorable. Hear that Mike? I'm still your adorable, precious little sister. Nah-nah nah nah - nah.
I think I was always in Mike's way growing up. (Maybe that's because I was his favorite). Favorite what? No, you're not going to shut me down on this train of thought - I was definitely Mike's favorite.
I wanted to be around him. (But that's because he insisted on being around me - yeah, right.) I wanted his approval on a regular basis. He was never much of a huggin' kind of guy, but I was always huggin' on him. Billy too. Actually, Billy was a lot more fun when I was growing up. So I hugged and chased after Mike and played hide and seek and bikes and cars with Billy. Billy played with me and didn't complain as much about it. Mike didn't want to be bothered. Oh well, Mike and Billy were both the greatest brothers ever. They still are.
We grew up with motorcycles in our family. My mother never rode, and always complained about it, but my dad and both of my brothers, Mike and Billy, had motorcycles of their own and they went riding all the time. This is a picture of my father - in the middle - and Mike on the right with one of my father's friends, Mr. Miller, (on the left) who was convinced by my dad to go buy himself a mid-life crisis motorcycle as well. Don't you know it? When you look at this picture - that 2 of the men are living out their second childhood and the other guy - you know - that other guy on the right? That good-lookin' kid in the gray sweater? He was trying to be all grown up in this picture. Such a big shot, don't you think?
The first motorcycles we had in our family were 3 Bridgestone 350s. I thought they were the coolest things since banana seats on bicycles. I loved to ride on the back. I did not, however, like riding on the back of Mike's motorcycle, because he was skinny and it was hard to hold on. He was so skinny, in fact, that I could hold on to my own elbows when I wrapped my arms around him. I didn't feel all that safe, although I trusted Mike was a good rider. Until that time he ran into the back of some woman's car on his way to college and landed on the pavement in front of her car - that is, of course, after bouncing off the hood of her car and scaring the crap out of the poor lady. He was on crutches for what seemed months. No more Bridgestones after that.
Maybe he was driving like this when he had his accident. (This is Mike with my daughter, Kathleen - goofin' around in the early 90s). I preferred riding on the back of my dad's motorcycle because my dad had some cushion in the front (you know the cushion I'm talkin' about, right?) and for a moment - and only a moment - I felt safer and more comfortable. But once we got goin' down the road, that was another story. I swear, every time I rode with my dad, we'd get into an accident, and every single time he ended up sitting on my head. "Get off my head!" I'd yell, and it always seemed to take my dad forever to get his butt off my head. Dad either got stung by a bee and we'd fall over, or he'd take a curve too tight, and we'd fall over, or he'd brake too hard and we'd fall over. It wasn't a good experience. And afterwards he'd say the same thing "Don't tell your mother or she'll make me sell the motorcycles and you don't want that do you?" "No, Dad, I don't want that - but I don't want you to SIT ON MY HEAD ANYMORE EITHER!" So, incident after incident, I'd ultimately end up riding with Mike, and fortunately, I was never in an accident when I rode with him.
My dad and brothers ultimately upgraded to Harleys, and it has been Harley's ever since for me and my brother Billy, but Mike? Nope. I can't remember what ever happened to this Sportster. He must have wrecked it.
Mike got himself this Yamaha back in the 80s. (sometime after the Sportster disappeared no doubt). I never understood this choice in motorcycle. It wasn't all that comfortable to ride on either. But he liked it and I suppose that's what matters. Of course, when I got my first Harley in 1989, guess who wanted to be the first one to ride it?
Well, besides me, of course - how'd you guess?!! Mike. He never did ride with me, though. You know, side-by-side down the road. When I finally got good at holding the bike upright, (it's tough trying to pick up a Harley once you've successfully dumped it in the road). I'd ask Mike to go riding with me, and as usual he'd say "no." I suppose he didn't want to ride his Yamaha alongside my Harley - me being his younger, bratty, baby sister and all. Or maybe he just didn't want to be in my company when I dumped my bike - again. Note: This is precisely how I got my nickname "Stop & Drop."
Mike, however, never hesitated to come over and say "Where are your keys?" - "Keys to what?" - "Your bike. I'm going to take it for a ride." - "Oh, really? Were you planning on asking me first?" - "Do I have too?" - "Crap, Mike, forget it! - "Ol, come on Sus, let me take it for a ride." - "Okay, here, take the dang keys, but you better not get a scratch on it or you're buyin' me a new one!" - "Yea, yea, yea. See ya." And off he'd go on my Harley. Mike is demanding like that. Always has been. Maybe that's because he's gotten away with it all these years.
Mike has always been a movie and music buff, too. He should open a movie or music rental store. He also collects autographed football jerseys and baseballs and books, and baseball hats. At one time, he had a room in his home designated specifically for his collectibles, posters, framed jerseys. It was a museum. Told ya he was a cool guy. He was also a drummer in a band they called "The Yankee Doodle Dandees." Mike could play "Wipe Out" as good as .... uh .... what was that guy's name from the 60s? I'm having a memory loss moment.
Mike is also a Redskin's fan. Not just any Redskin's fan, either, THE Redskin's fan of all time. At one time not too many years ago, he was involved with a group in Florida called the "South Florida Washington Redskins Fan Club" and he'd arrange for a bunch of members to go to the Virginia training field - Redskin's Park - each year to meet some of the players and get a tour of the facilities. It was always a fun time.
Now here's a funny memory - sometime back in the 70s, Mike went to Redskin's Park for tryouts for the team. Can you imagine that skinny guy on the drums making the Redskin's team? He wouldn't have survived a day - trampled. Totally trampled. Then I'd have to kick someone's butt for trampling my big brother. "Yea, yea, yea - get lost."
In the evenings, after our excursion to Redskin's Park, we'd check out Old Town Alexandria and it was impossible to keep up with Mike. Walking alongside Mike requires track shoes. Mike has to get where he's goin' in 2 seconds flat. There is no such thing as strolling along, enjoying the scenery, taking your time. "Come on Susan, get a move on, you're too slow" he'd always say. "Slow?! You're too darn fast! Cool your jets, RELAX!" Then Mike would mumble some frustration under his breath. I've never been able to keep up with Mike. He walks too fast. Mike, you need to slow down bud. Take a breath. Stop and smell the roses!
If I say that to him, though, he tells me to do the same. Sibling bickering. Does it ever end?
Oh, how I love this guy I call "my brother," though we still bicker like teenage siblings from time to time. I'll never forget the first time he brought me to happy tears, though. I had been involved with Wendy Ward Modeling at Montgomery Ward's in Wheaton, Maryland, when I was about 14 years old. I was a little thing. Skinny. Kinda tall. Starting to fill out and learn how to wear makeup and fix my hair. That is why my mother signed me up for this modeling adventure. They taught young girls good graces and correct posture. How to walk and wear makeup. It was fun.
For graduation, I participated in a fashion show and my family was in the audience. Mike didn't want to go - he had better things to do - but he relented and came to the show. I remember how excited I was that Mike was in the audience. I don't know how to explain it except to say that - yes - I was happy my parents and my other brother, Billy, were there too, but Mike? I wanted Mike's validation. I wanted his love. I wanted his approval. It's a little sister thing I think.
As I sashayed across the stage in my pretty dress and hosiery, I recall looking at my brother Mike in the audience and he smiled at me. I felt like a Princess. I was never happier than when he was there to cheer me on. After the show, Mike patted me on the top of the head and said "Great job, Susan. And, uh, you were the best lookin' one in the whole show." - "Wow! Really?" - "Yep. You looked really pretty out there." I melted. I was mush. I was goo. I was rosey all over. I had tingles up and down my spine. My brother, Mike, thought I was pretty?! Wow, was that great or what?!!
Of course, things change when you get older. All you have to do is take one look at this picture (above) and you can tell that the only pretty one in the picture is my daughter, Kimberly. This was Thanksgiving 2005. That sure was a great time.
Before that day of compliments when I was 14 years old, Mike was drafted to serve our country during the Vietnam War. His draft number was "2" and I was terrified that he had to go to war and that I'd lose my big brother. Nothing has ever frightened me more than the thought of Mike going to war. In this picture, my dad is hugging Mike at the airport just before he was to leave for basic training. We were all in tears.
Mike was cool about it. I don't know how siblings, parents, husbands, wives, children - do it these days. The only saving grace nowadays is the internet and email and mobile phones. You can communicate with your loved ones no matter where they are. Back in the 60s and 70s we didn't have that luxury. If they were gone - they were gone. You didn't know anything unless you received letters from the front lines. It was a difficult time.
Mike left for basic training, and because he was in college, he was spared having to serve in Viet Nam. Rather, he served in the Air Force Reserves for 6 years. He looked so handsome in his uniform.
There's just something about a guy in uniform. Even if he is my brother.
I sure thought he looked darn handsome. He came back from basic training all buff and clean cut and square-chinned too. He was hot stuff back then.
Mike has been my rock when I've needed him most. When I was 19 years old, I got pregnant with my daughter, Kathleen, who is now 29 years old. (Now that's hard to believe) Okay, don't get me goin' on that story. My mother and I were in the kitchen of our home and Mike came home from work and my mom told him to sit down. "What's goin' on?" he said as he looked at both of us. Mom had an obvious concerned look on her face and she said "Your sister is having a baby." Mike didn't skip a beat, he immediately said "Great! I'll babysit. When's the baby due?" Now is that a great brother or what? I cried, of course.
All through my pregnancy, Mike was loving and supportive. He took me to doctor appointments when necessary, regularly reminded me to take my prenatal vitamins, and always made sure I was comfortable. He even helped me pay for the doctor bill after I lost my job at the bank. I will forever be grateful for all his love and support during that difficult time in my life.
During the late 70s, Mike was manager at our parent's restaurant - The Olney Inn - for several years before it burned down in 1978. (Again, that's another unbelievable story for another time), and after that incident, he got a job selling cars at Bethesda Ford. He has been selling cars ever since. I've never quite understood that career choice, because, to tell you the truth, my brother is a great cartoonist. His cartoons are ripe with political humor and more. He should have been a cartoonist. He would have been syndicated for sure. Maybe he will try if I keep buggin' him. I've only been buggin' him about it for 40 years. I'm good at that. I'm his baby sister. It's my job to bug him - but not kick him in the shins.
Mike sure is special to me. He is happily married to Marcella, a beautiful woman, and a caring, devoted wife. Marcella dotes on Mike all the time. They have been married 4 years now. Mike was married for 12 years prior to meeting Marcella, and he had a son, Kyle, who is so much like Mike it is like watching Mike grow up all over again. Kyle is 15 years old.
Mike and Marcella are the cutest couple. I just want to pinch them. Mike - you and Marcella need to come to North Carolina for Thanksgiving so that I can pinch you and drive you crazy. No excuses. Nobody is going to be out buying a Lexus over Thanksgiving anyway.
Mike lives in Florida and works at Lexus of Palm Beach. If you ever decide to buy a Lexus, ask for Mike Simms at Lexus. He'll give you a good deal and won't try to snow you over either. Tell him you know all about his Redskin's junk collection, or his 55,000 baseball caps, or his framed signed jerseys. He'll look at you like your nuts.
So why am I writing this story now? Well, probably because I just uploaded about a hundred photos of Mike and Marcella into my Flickr account and I couldn't help but smile thinking about him and how much he means to me. And, more importantly, I want him to join us for Thanksgiving. Mom has been visiting with Mike and Marcella in Florida since May (that's the longest she has been away from us since she moved in with my family 10 years ago) and she needs to get back home. We're hoping Mike and Marcella will drive Mom home right before Thanksgiving and spend the holiday with us.
Just before they go on another holiday together for 10 days - like this one to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. They're always goin' somewhere. What a pathetic life they lead. Cruises, South Florida sunshine, beaches, fancy restaurants on occasion, trips to the South Pacific. Pathetic. I should be so fortunate!
You see, I need Mike's approval. I need his love. I need his hugs. I need his fast pace and his sarcasm. I need his occasional validation. I need his slap-stick humor at the dinner table. I need him to clean out my garage and edge my lawn.
Mostly, I want him to be proud of his little sister. Because, you see, I'm still needy. I'm still a kid inside. I don't think any of us ever really grow up. I know I haven't.
Because, when Mike, Billy, and I, get together, it's like we're 3 kids all over again. Of course, I'm always the baby and the nuisance and I'll always be their little sister. I have lots of memories growing up with 2 brothers. Good memories. Difficult memories. Interesting memories. Crazy memories. It has been a good life thus far. I've been blessed.
And - you - Mike - take off work will ya? Get your butt up here for Thanksgiving and drive Mom home. And besides, if you don't, I'm going to post this picture of you getting burned all over the internet. Uhhhhh, oops. I already did. You're still comin' right?
Love you big brother - SusieQ