June 7, 2007
I’ll love him like a brother ... in-law
When I was growing up with two older sisters, the only thing I ever truly wanted was a brother -- someone who could torment my sisters when I was tired. After realizing that I was the only reason my parents wouldn't have another child, I was tempted to pray for an "accident," but I quickly aborted that mission because the possibility of a younger brother wasn't worth the agony of another sister. |
It seemed as though my childhood quest to find a brother was hopeless until nine months ago. My wildest dreams came true when I received a call from my oldest sister saying she was engaged. Somebody up there must like me.
It also seemed that my years of being the butt of my sisters' jokes were about to end as this man brought a much-needed gender balance to my family. But getting to know my sister's fiancé was a very delicate procedure. I wasn't just testing a potential suitor. I was also testing a potential brother.
During their year-and-a-half courtship, I examined our every encounter carefully, from how many ice cubes he used to the point spread after he beat me in basketball.
I knew what I wanted in a brother. He had to have three things to make it as a male in my book: intelligence, class and courage. Intelligence to appreciate a man like me. Class to train me how to be a player in the George Clooney mold.
And courage to protect me when the super villains discover my weakness.
Before he even proposed to my sister, he had already passed one of the tests.
The first time we met I wasn't sure what to think of him. "I've heard a lot of good things about you, Jay," he said. The man was a Mensa-level genius.
When he proposed to my sister, I waited for the perfect time to test his class: the Las Vegas bachelor party.
This information-technology professional, whom we were expected to wine and dine, ended up beating the pants off me in poker at the Mirage Hotel and Casino.
I had lost to him in b-ball and cards -- not necessarily my strongest games -- but I'd test him in an area where I excel.
As the seven of us entered a gentleman's club off the Strip, I was thinking payback. I wanted to see how easy it would be to embarrass my future kin. This surplus of sin would truly prove to be an adequate environment to test his limits. Now he was playing in my court.
Compared to the rest of us, he was as reserved as a handicapped parking space. My sister would have been proud of his all-smiles-but-no-touch policy. The brotherhood we shared was apparently more important to him than the bountiful A-list "dancers" who surrounded us. Class? And then some.
I was shocked at how well he handled the situation. At that moment he truly deserved a hearty "yasher koach."
As impressed as I was with him following the bachelor party, I still wasn't totally convinced he would measure up to my expectations of what a big brother should be.
As the wedding approached during Memorial Day weekend, I knowingly put myself in harm's way to see if he'd swoop in to rescue me. Would he exhibit the courage to square off against his own fiancée?
My sister and my future bro were fighting in the living room of our parents' Pittsburgh home. As they were debating a minor sticking point about the placement of the kids' table, I suggested they move it close to the bar.
My sister glared at me, the lasers in her eyes charged and ready to burn a hole right through me. He smirked at me, and then turned to face her down in the ultimate one-on-one battle.
"Baby, it'll all work out," he said, adding that he'd be there for her.
I realized then how much courage it must take to marry a woman in my family.
I still felt a little uneasy about accepting a new member into the family, even though he passed my three-pronged test. But when I saw my sister walk down the aisle with him during the ceremony, it dawned on me that it didn't matter if I accepted him.
When I saw how happy my sister was, I realized that this wedding experience wasn't about me. It wasn't about creating a gender balance in my family. It wasn't about gaining a big brother.
Instead, it should have been about my being a good brother.
As I stood by the chuppah, holding back tears that would have surely embarrassed me as well as the other men in my family, I thought about how much this man and I have in common. He is also the youngest child. He also has an older sister, but no brother. And he's also a nice Jewish boy, like yours truly.
But more importantly, I knew he'd make a great husband for my sister.
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