||Read this on an online version of the Dingapore Papers... was kinda nice...
Band of brothers
It's great to discover that, when things get rough, as it did for me last year, you have a brother you can count on
By Karl Ho
RECENTLY, I found myself another bosom buddy.
He's 12 years older than me.
He's my brother.
We've been hanging out whenever our busy schedules permit: We have coffee in Siglap, take late-night swims and have supper.
I take him to Club 21 sales (he's updating his wardrobe), invest my savings in his used car dealership and bitch about everything bad in my life.
He takes me to dingy bars at Golden Mile (he meets his business contacts there), helps me finance my home payments and tells me to stop whining and get a life.
Brotherly love might be a given for many Singaporeans. But as I grew older and immersed myself in making a mark in life, I gradually forgot what it felt like.
Then, a bad 2003 shocked me out of my self-centredness and sent me crawling back to my long-neglected family for solace.
In the process, I got re-acquainted with my 42-year-old brother.
Some things don't change.
His normally deadpan face still breaks into a creased smirk whenever I open my mouth, mocking most attempts at serious conversation. (He has always assumed that nothing intelligent comes out of my mouth.)
However, I've noticed that he's more keen these days to introduce me to his business partners, to talk about his personal life and to help me sort out mine.
That's when I realised with a start that as I hit my 30-year mark, my brother is finally treating me as his peer.
OF COURSE, it's not as if my brother and I were like Cain and Abel when we were growing up.
I have another older brother, who's 46 now, and since he and my mother had to help my father out at his fruit stall during the busy durian seasons, my second brother was my babysitter.
He gladly introduced me to his teenage world. He taught me to smoke (I choked and stayed off cigarettes forever) and took me to HDB void-deck dance parties organised by his friends (hence my penchant for grooving).
My introduction to the birds and bees when I was in Primary Six was all thanks to him.
I rummaged through his stash of contraband (without his knowledge) and peeped at him when he was with his girlfriend.
In fact, my mother even recalls how, when I was a toddler, I did not want him to leave my sight.
'You were at the metal gate, crying and refusing to let him go to school,' she remembers to this day.
'So he rushed off and bought you a toy car to placate you. I think he cried a bit too as he left.'
But left me behind he did when he reached adulthood.
He concentrated on building his career, got married and started a family.
I grew up, too, and like many other rebellious teens, thought that it wasn't cool to be too close to the family.
After national service, I packed my bags and went overseas to study. And we drifted further apart.
So why are we buddies now?
Maybe it's because I'm reaching a stage in life where I'm desperately trying to understand the real world.
My brother, who has been there and done most of that, is the ideal mentor as I grapple with issues that occupy my mind these days, such as career, marriage and happiness.
Our 12-year age gap allows him to be old enough to give me the sort of advice that my peers can't, yet young enough to still understand where I'm coming from.
I might love my Mum to death, for instance, but for the life of me, I can't fathom why she tells me that 'if all else fails, there're always China brides'.
Besides, I like to think, I'm also there for my brother when he needs me.
Wearied by the responsibilities of work and family, he might feel a need to reinvigorate himself.
So, perhaps he sees in me a reflection of his younger self, someone who can be a compass to the ever-changing pop culture scene that has since left him behind.
Hence, his ransacking of my wardrobe and his interest in my magazines.
2003 was also a particularly trying year for my family. Beset with grief and worry over a heart operation, it was no wonder that all of us - my brother and I included - snuggled closer for comfort.
Most importantly, this new chumminess is my brother's tacit acknowledgement that I've grown up.
No longer am I a pimply, trash-talking rebel without a cause, but an adult with bills to pay and a future to chart.
And he's more than willing to reprise his role as big brother.
I think it wouldn't be wrong to generalise that when guys are growing up, whatever love we share with our brothers is often clouded by sibling rivalry, immaturity and self-centredness.
But now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I realise that in a world of uncertainty and impermanence, blood ties are really all you can rely on.
I'm glad to have found my brother after all these years.
He might not show it, but I can sense that he's enjoying our newfound camaraderie. (Maybe I did overdo the compliments about his new look.)
As for me, I'll strive to live up to his expectations of me - as a mature adult whom he can respect, and a faithful companion he's proud to call brother.