July 11, 1969: My Brother Mike

Foggy ‘till late. Bought groceries. We all went to San Luis Obispo and visited the mission. The boys swam and then took a long walk up the beach. Doug and I cooked supper. Mike shut his finger in the car door.

Marge Binder, July 11, 1969

When I first read this entry from Maw’s diary and saw, “Mike shut his finger in the door,” my reaction was, “Yep, that’s Mike.”

I felt bad, for sure, but things like this were always happening to my brother Mike. I think he’d agree today: thus has been his existence. Mike is the middle child, and he possesses much of the pseudo-psycho baggage that goes with that (along with the virtues like leadership and modesty). But that’s just the beginning.

I don’t think my joints do that anymore. Now I know why.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen that we stopped every seven days in one little town or another to get Mike an allergy shot. Later on in the trip, he’ll get poison ivy and visit a hospital in Illinois for an ear situation. In the years to come, Mike will suffer bouts with more allergies and god-awful plantar warts. Being in the room when he was having one of those things removed was terrifying for me; I can’t imagine what it was like for him.

(Mike and I share a few bum knees too, but I am grateful that our family didn’t suffer anything more nefarious. Very grateful.)

In her diary, Mom seems to cluster Mike and me together in many situations. Even though he was eight and I was four, Mom referred to us as “the little guys” in one entry. We swam while Tim fished. While Tim fished we swam. And on and on.

The scout befriends a native.

But Mike and I were very different kids. He excelled in math and science. I relished the liberal arts and sports. He was obsessed with “Star Trek.” I made appointment TV with “Wide World of Sports.” He studied his ass off. I did what I needed to get by. Mike became an Eagle Scout. He put himself through the University of Virginia (which he didn’t have to do) by driving buses around Charlottesville. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, got several advanced degrees, researched at CERN in Switzerland and then got another degree in architecture.

I have a BA in English.

We are no longer the little guys. For 50 years we’ve charted different courses, chased different dreams, and we’ve somehow got more in common now than ever. We are both creative and artistic, curious, considerate and compassionate. All traits we no doubt learned from Mom.

Yet, differences remain. I consider my big brother Mike to be one of the most honest, modest, sincere and hard working persons I have known in my life. Something I can only aspire to.

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