Brotherly love is a beautiful thing. Okay, I realize that might qualify as the most trite beginning ever for one of my columns, but, you do have to admit it’s the truth. Brotherly love can sometimes manifest itself in the most unusual ways. At least it did between my brother Ernest and I back in 1968. At that point in time, I was in the sixth grade over at Banks Stephens, and Ernest was in the fourth grade over at Monroe County Elementary School. One fall afternoon we were getting on the school bus to ride home, and I noticed Ernest had a pretty pronounced look of disgust on his face.
Being the sensitive, caring brother that I am, I asked him what was wrong? “Edward, my teacher, Miss Henson, told us we have a week to read “Tom Sawyer.” Then, we’re supposed to write a book report about it. On top of that, we have to read it out loud in front of the whole class. What a mean old bag!” I asked him, “Well, what’s so bad about that? “Tom Sawyer” is a good book, I’ve read it myself.” Ernest glared at me like I’d just spit in his nightly milkshake, “I’ll tell you what’s so bad.
I won’t be able to play outside this week cause I’ll have to stay inside and read. That really stinks.” At that point, I decided to be a good brother and offered the following, “Look, I’ve already read “Tom Sawyer.” I’ll be happy to sit down this coming Sunday night and write your report. Then, you can just read it to your class next Monday morning.” “You’d do that for me?” he asked. “What are brothers for?” I replied. Ernest played outdoors the rest of the week, reminding me each night about his book report. Finally, Sunday night rolled around, and, true to my word, I sat down and wrote his report for him. Only thing was, my timing was such that Ernest didn’t have time to read it before he went to bed.
I assured him that was no big deal, all he had to do was get up, go to school, and read it out loud the next day. He smiled and went right to bed. The next day we went to school, and I didn’t even see Ernest until that afternoon when we were getting ready to get on the bus to go home. When he walked up, his face was red, and he seemed really ticked off. I asked him what was wrong? “You know what’s wrong! I took that report into Miss Henson’s room this morning. When she said it was time to read them, I volunteered to get up first and do mine!” I told Ernest that was commendable. He hollered, “Don’t give me that! I read that report out loud in front of the whole class! Every single word of it, including what you put in that last sentence!” “Oh, you mean thattttttttttttt.” “Yeah, I mean thatttttttttt. Very funny. It was going along so good, my teacher was smiling, the whole class was nodding, and then I read that last line.
That WHOLE last line. You know, the one that said, “In conclusion, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t write a single word of this report - my brother Edward did.” I said, “You actually read that out loud? You didn’t glance over your report before you went up there? I put that in there as a gag.” Ernest replied, “Some gag! The whole class laughed like crazy, then Miss Henson told me I was getting an “F.” I would hit you except I’m already waist deep in trouble, plus, you’re bigger than I am. Don‘t ever help me out again!” I didn’t realize it, but what I’d just done was expose Ernest to the concept of “tough love.” He had to learn that you can’t take the easy road out, and that there’s a price to pay for cheating. And who better to learn this from than his older brother? Imagine if some of today’s crooks had been taught lessons like this early on - I’ll bet our crime rate would be much lower today. And, because of this situation Ernest never again failed to read a book he was asked to, which resulted in his being the well read, literate person he is today. All due to my personal efforts.
Brotherly love really is a beautiful thing. ZZZZZZ .