I suppose younger brothers have their merits. Bill Fallon, who turns 65 today, had three of them. Pete, a year younger, was his buddy. They shared friends, sports, and were comrades in crime and prank. I was four years junior, a tagalong kid too small to be useful in play, but an easy target. Tim was a dozen years younger than eldest Bill, which practically put him in another generation. Tim was our mascot, our toy.
Bill never received the value of having an older brother. On a day-to-day basis, older brother’s wreck havoc in a young boy’s life. Bill and Pete punched, flicked, and teased me constantly. But every once in a while, my older brother could do things that justified all my pain.
Bill always had flair and style beyond his means. The summer I was in seventh grade, he owned a Porsche. The chronology of this makes no sense, since he would have still been in high school in a town where few high school boys owned cars, let along Porsches. But I know for truth he owned a vintage Porsche, because he gave me the ride of my life.
Middle school was time to ask girls out on dates. I was horrified by the whole idea, but if there ever was an eager conformist, that was me. I called Gale Gibadlo and asked her out to a movie. Yikes, she said yes. My palms started sweating the moment I put down the phone. For the next four days I worried about every possible problem. What would I say to her? What if I popped a zit? Did I have to hold her hand throughout the entire movie? Wouldn’t the armrest get in the way?
After my second sleepless night I realized entirely new problems – logistical ones. Gale lived four miles away; the movie theater was in the opposite direction. How was I going to pick her up and deliver her back home? I couldn’t take my bike.
I was stowed away in the basement, quivering on my balance board doing my eye strengthening exercises, when Billy popped downstairs. “Why are you so quiet, Shorty?” We lived in a house where silence was a sin, if not a downright crime. I was so worried about my upcoming date (which I considered to be nothing less than the inevitable nuptial bond between Gale and me, though I hardly knew her and wasn’t at all sure I liked her). I told Bill my dilemma. “No problem, Shorty, I’ll drive.”
Immediately, my palms dried. Two days later we showed up at Gale’s in Bill’s Porsche convertible. She was impressed. My cheerful chauffeur picked up the small talk whenever the conversation lagged. Since it was a two-seater, Gale had to sit on my lap, which seemed appropriately intimate. I had never been so close to a girl. I’m sure she felt the uncontrollable lap pressure thirteen-year-old boys endure all day and most nights. I figured she’d take it as a compliment.
Thanks to Bill, the date was a complete success. Gale and I went out a few more times that summer. The first girl I kissed tasted like lanolin. We never gained enough traction to bother breaking up; I have no idea where she is now. In keeping with his feast or famine manner, Bill lost the Porsche. He had other cars; lost a few of them as well. Nothing remains of my first date but memory, and gratitude for having an older brother.