What Big Brothers Do

You can almost see the terrifying story forming in his head, can't you?

The first blog I ever wrote was three years ago on my son’s 21st birthday. So I thought it was fitting to write about my son Mike turning 24 today.

In my family, when it’s your birthday, we all tell stories about you at dinner. I usually tell the natural childbirth labor and delivery story, which is not conducive to good digestion, but I wasn’t exactly eating bon-bons for 12 hours with no drugs all those three times, so cut me some slack. In the storytelling, I’m often asked to go last.

Mike is the oldest of my children, so his siblings usually tell a story about one of the many times that they were scared shitless by their older brother, who had a knack for making up stories and getting little kids to believe him. I had no idea that as soon as I left a room, Mike would start spinning some tale about dead people. They never told me.

Tonight at dinner, I imagine the story of the Ghost of David Morris will come up, which is a classic.

The Morris family lived next door to my mom and because they literally surrounded her and because they were so nice, we thought of them as an extension of our own family. They built and owned the house my mom lived in for the last 30 years of her life. Next door were Morrises. On the other side were Morrises, next to them were Morrises and next to them was Aunt Weezie Morris and her dog. It was like an Osmond family compound without the singing (although John Morris used to play Elton John and church songs on the piano with the windows open in the summer and we all enjoyed that). We all loved living amidst all the Morrises and were grateful that they took care of my mom all the years she lived there alone.

David Morris, while building my mom’s house with his brother and dad, wrote his name on a beam in the basement. David Morris was here.  You didn’t see it when you went into the basement to do laundry or fiddle with the sump pump. But when we would visit my mom, my kids loved to explore the basement and poke around all the old things.

David Morris was here caught my son Mike’s eye. He didn’t say anything at first, but decided it was perfect for his next plot.

“Did you guys ever hear the story of David Morris?” he asked them casually as they were looking through a box of old vases. Then he told them that David Morris had been a guy who lived in Grandma’s house a long, long time ago. There were some issues and he killed a lot of people and then died. “And now they say he haunts this basement.”

Jack and Cary are wide-eyed by now.

“It’s probably not true,” Mike said flippantly. “They say he wrote his name somewhere down here as proof that his ghost is still here.”  The search began for David Morris’ name.

I was sitting at my mom’s kitchen table having tea with her when the screams began and four little feet came pounding up the cellar steps. They tried to get me to deny the story, but all I heard was “DAVID MORRIS” and “basement” and I said, “well of course David Morris has been in Grandma’s basement.” More screaming.

They wouldn’t go into her basement for years. And it was even years after that that they stopped and thought about that flimsy connection between a name on a beam and proof of a ghost. Only an older brother can bend your mind enough to make you forget that reason and logic exist.

It was probably slightly traumatic for Jack and Cary, especially since I am the hovering helicopter parent who was always striving to make their lives easy and calm. Mike was no help in that department. But it does make for good birthday dinner stories.

Happy Birthday, Mike!

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