By: Connor Lenahan
I realize that I most likely overuse the phrase “I’m really old.” It’s probably at least semi-inaccurate given that I’m only 20 years old. I still feel that way. When I came home for Christmas I hadn’t put two and two together to remember that this birthday, the one my youngest brother Cary celebrates today, marks the one which allows him to drive. When he entered our kitchen a day ago with the Pennsylvania State Drivers Manual in hand I laughed in my head. “You don’t need that for another few… Oh God, no.” Cary turns sixteen today which is horrific to type. I had always loved the buffer of his age. Eh, I may be (Insert my age), but Cary is only (Insert his age). Now that buffer begins and ends with him behind the wheel of the car. This is terrifying for me not because I think he will make a poor driver – much the opposite, he and I both share philosophies on how to drive – but because this means there’s yet another pair of hands to snatch the keys away when I want to go buy snacks. In many ways – ways primarily related to Cheetos – this day is horrible.
In many more, serious ways this is a fun day. Cary has the unfortunate luck of having his birthday fall between two holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, which creates a kind of holiday fatigue. In my mind I have always kind of imagined Car’y birthday as one week long kind of thing. After Christmas it’s just always kind of his birthday. I’m not sure of the last time I woke up on December 29th and did not remember, “Oh that’s right, this is the real one.” This is fun for him no doubt – Survive the year and you are almost literally swimming in presents.
This birthday begins the trend that everyone I know has already begun. No longer is he a kid. Now he is legally able to take his permit test, then drivers test, then the SATs, then go to college. Sixteen is the birthday that starts the ball rolling on adulthood. It’s exciting and, I’d imagine a little terrifying. I say imagine only because I did not have that feeling. See, given my life with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, I was forced to grow up fast. Sixteen felt like a formality to me rather than an event. I’m not sure the same is true of Cary, which strikes me in a special way.
Cary and I are almost uncannily alike. With the exception of the bone condition he and I are very similar. We have a shared affinity for nice clothing, normally coming from J Crew. We share love of footwear – He gravitates towards Nike’s Roshe Runs while I move towards Jordans. My Christmas gift to Cary – an original Game Boy with Pokemon Blue, a Game Boy Color with Pokemon Gold, and the badges earned in Kanto on the TV show and Pokemon Blue – was something I knew would hit because I would have wanted the gift for myself. He has a strong, relatively mean sense of humor. We share fandom of shows like The Simpsons and Thomas the Tank Engine. I’ve introduced him to a great deal of music that we both listen to constantly. Frankly, the biggest difference between the two of us is that he stands a full six inches, minimum, taller than I do. I’d be lying if I claimed that this was not infuriating. Doesn’t matter, I can drive to the store and buy Twinkies any time I like and he can’t. So there.
It goes without say that we bicker a lot. Given that Cary and I share similar, strong personalities we tend to think we are in the right almost always. When that position is challenged we get angry at one another simple because we are who we are. This is called “being brothers.” The kid is really smart, which causes me to get flustered often. I don’t like being wrong, and on more than one occasion I need to scramble after he traps me in a corner and proves me wrong. I normally call him a nerd and leave the room. It’s a successful move, but it doesn’t change the fact that, despite being four years my junior, he so obviously plays at an intellectual level higher than the age on his driver’s license would indicate that it’s uncanny. He sees the world a different way. He’s possibly the most skilled photographer I know that has never had any training. He will point and shoot things without a second thought and produces work that has literally been framed in our house. Calling it a gift is an understatement. Cary’s sight is a trait I am eternally jealous of – he would make an incredible cinematographer just by messing around, and this is entirely meant as a compliment.
I’m not sure that Cary’s path is entirely set out in front of him. When I was 16 it was becoming increasingly clear that my life would gravitate towards sports without question. Now I work for Boston University Athletics. Cary’s timeline isn’t as clear cut or pre-decided, but it’s beginning to take shape. Our mom and I had been brainstorming colleges for him to tour next year on a ride home recently. I suggested BU and was elated when he told me that was atop his preliminary listing. He’s very close to me in many ways. I love Boston, so it’s no stretch to figure that he would as well. Having spent two years in the city not a day goes by that I don’t think “Cary would flourish here.” He is very much an outgoing, clever person who would not just adapt to living in a city, but improve because of it. If photography held interest for him Boston would allow it. If music was the route, he’d be set. Anything would be held up by the city. I wasn’t surprised when he told me he liked the idea of BU, I was just happy he figured it out faster than I did at his age.
It’s been odd yet rewarding to watch Cary grow up especially in the past few years. He has deepened his taste in music and movies creating yet another mind for me to pick. When he texted me about his love of Interstellar I was excited because I could bounce my mind off his. We share a common language that way. I can text him photos from Instagrams dedicated to sneakers and see if he approves of designs. He made a few choices I had suggested to him in the past – IE: adopting J Crew as a clothing guide and cutting his hair shorter. Overall I have gotten to see him get smarter, more mature, and taller. He’s becoming an adult bit by bit. It’s terrific to watch and sad at the same time. For as he inches closer to being an adult I inch closer to being an actual adult with real-world responsibilities. For this I plead Cary to hit pause for a little, I like it here. There’s a lot of ice cream.
Knowing that his is just another step is awesome. He’s only going to keep getting better. Good things are only to come. The closer he gets to being a grown up the more excited he becomes. It’s clear. He’s starting to come into his own and it shows. He’s not there just yet, simply out of inexperience, but he’s getting close – really close. This is the birthday that gets him on a rocket ride towards the best times of his life. So today is going to be important. This is the time he starts moving out of the “Mini Me” category despite the fact he has been taller than me since the last Presidential election. This is cool. This is terrifying. This is special. Nevertheless, it’s his day. In honor of this, it’s time for Stromboli and Cake.