All of these names mean one thing. My big brother.
I feel like I am at a loss to explain this relationship. Truth be told I am not as close to Jeff as I am to my sisters in a friendship sense. We don’t hang out just the two of us like I would with Emme, Jen, and even his lovely Michaela.
But we certainly have a history together. We spent hours playing orphans running away from the oppressive and child working head mistress with Miss DK and Judy. I think he may have even helped us set up intricate barbie cities with us. We got up to all sorts of nonsense with Emily such as turning down the volume on soap operas and doing the voice overs for the characters. The argument was always over whether oranges or bananas are better. Trust me this is alot of fun. I seem to remember something about garden gnomes too. We even started a band. We did a photo shoot and made an album cover with pretzels spelling out our band name, but alas we had no songs. We even got married once. Emily was the priest (a wee bit liberal), Jen attended as a guest, and we even had communion like good Catholics.
But we also have a history of war. War of all sorts. Fighting with each other, but even better fighting for each other.
Before I get to that, lets go back to the beginning. Imagine a beautiful October day in 1987 in Chilliwack, BC. Leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and the sun lights the world with a warm Autumn glow as if it were coming from underneath the earth. Everything is beautiful. I love these days. They are my absolute favorite. In the Hamel house a new little bald bundle with a V on her forehead enters the house for the first time. Her name is Laura Christine. Her three siblings gather around her. They love her instantly. Each takes a turn bonding with her for the first time in their home. It comes to the wee little boys turn. A boy named Jeffrey. He holds her so gently in his lap with all the care in the world. He looks at her with absolute wonder and awe. He leans down and places a gentle and voluntary, sweet kiss on her forehead. Their mothers’ heart melts. Their father looks on proudly. They have a true gentleman for a son. Their dream come true. Love fills the room.
Neither did they all know what a firecracker I’d turn out to be and how these two innocent children would be anything but peaceful with one another in years to come. The dynamic of the family shifted once again to let a little soul in. My little soul. And I am always pleased to remember my first interaction with my big brother was a perfect moment.
I don’t think its that constructive to explain in great detail how or why we didn’t always get along. Its as simple as we’re brother and sister two and a half years apart with different personalities.
I remember once driving across Alberta somewhere on one of our family trips out to visit Emily while she was in Rosebud. We always drove across the prairies commenting on how funny it was that every time there was a slight bend in the road/highway there would be a ton of signs leading up to it. ‘Look out, Its an anomaly, A bend in the road. Oh no!’ Coming from BC this was pretty funny.
We would often take the Trivial Pursuit cards on these trips to entertain us. It was generally a competition between Jeff and Mom to see who could recall more useless/interesting bits of information from their brains. After a while we stopped playing and just chatted for a while, something that I could participate in with much more ease. I was about 12 at the time, in my awkward years of tearaways and visors. Jeff would be pretty close to his 15th birthday. I, like many 12 years olds often felt ugly, weird, and just out of sorts. I’d look in the mirror and see someone in-between. I started to complain about how I was ugly, probably going on about my eyebrows being terrible because they look like two caterpillars (true story). Then being the true gentleman he is Jeff piped in and said “Laura after all the arguments we’ve had don’t you think I would have called you ugly by now if it were true.” Another perfect moment for Jeff and Laura was created. My pre-teen angst subsided and I had to admit that that was a good point. Mom and Dad or course chuckled in the front seat.
There was a time in Jeffs life before he became a strong military man and a law student with an extremely gorgeous wife that things were quite hard for him. He has always been incredibly intellectual. As a kid he would pour over books. He was always taking those eyewitness books out from the library memorizing huge amounts of data. He knew so much about airplanes and weapons used in World Wars by each individual country. He read ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy by the time he was 12. In grade 7 he did a report on Dieppe that was 20 pages long, well researched, and properly cited if I recall correctly.
This boy was smart. But he struggled in school. It wasn’t until my mom practically forced his high school to test him for learning disabilities in grade 10 that his grades finally reflected his great intelligence after modifications were made to what was expected of him in school. In grade 10 he was spelling at the level of a grade 5 student but reading at the level of a second year university student. His success in many ways is my moms success. He took off from there and has been unstoppable since.
When we were in elementary school there were certain boys who were treating Jeffrey with great disrespect on a regular basis. I was not impressed. Nobody was to treat my brother like dirt. I knew he was smarter than all of them, but he just didn’t have the guts to really lay down the law with them. So one day in grade 5 I decided to give them a piece of my mind. I told off those grade 7 bullies for my big brother. I remember them looking back at me pretty scared. I’ve always had the skill of pulling out the scary guns when necessary (ask my grade 9 students from last year). Reflecting back I am certain it didn’t help at all since he now had the added embarrassment of having his little sister ream the mean boys out for him. But I swear from the bottom of my heart that I meant every threatening word because I knew my brother was being treated unjustly.
I would go to war for him any day.
Fast forward to my grade 10 year. Jeff was in grade 12 and a tall but lanky 6’2, much more intimidating then he was in grade 7. Jeff was coming into his own. He was going to attend TWU after high school and knew unlike those bullies that there is life after graduation. One day on the bus a certain classmate of mine (who will remain nameless) decided that a fun activity for the ride home would be to cut my hair. He cut a small to medium but unforgivable chunk of my locks. I was not impressed. Evidently Jeff wasn’t either. The authorities that be dealt with it in their own way with something lame like a detention or an in school suspension (I would have had him cleaning toilets). Jeff walked up to the nameless young man in question in the hall the next day and told him with a cool and calm demeanor “If you ever touch my sister again I will take both of your (expletive) legs and (expletive) arms and shove them up your (profanity).” All with a smile. Now Jeff did get called to the office and was spoken to quite firmly nodding along to the allegations agreeing that that’s exactly what he said, which I think dumbfounded the authorities more than anything. But he told me he didn’t regret it at all.
You see he would go to war for me any day.
And maybe that’s what we both have deep within us. An innate sense that although we are never going to bond over pedicures like I would with my sisters (that would be awkward anyways) that when push comes to shove we will ALWAYS push and shove for each other (in a figurative sense). Because its right. Because blood is thicker than water. Because, and I speak directly to you right now Ffej, I love my big brother and I always will. We’ve grown up and we probably know each other strengths and weaknesses better only than each other spouses. We wished each other heartfelt words on our own respective wedding days this summer and meant everything we said. We’ll tell our kids embarrassing stories about each other and we might still have a few tiffs from time to time. But I know I can rely on Jeff to stick up for me when I need it.
After all he can kill a man with his bare hands.