Buddy is the name we use for my brother, Brady Lee Porter, Jr. The "we" includes my parents and myself only, for I am not sure if Buddy's father called him Buddy, or any one else for that matter, as I only know my brother and not his world
I remember his second wife, whom he divorced a few years ago, and how she called him Brady. Since my brother is fifteen years older than I and has been out of state and the country for most of his stint in the Army, I didn't see him much growing up. I still don't; once a year, usually for just a few days, is the average. Save for some airplane rides (the kind where you're leaning your stomach on someone else's feet), some yellowed photographs of us (the kind with the rounded edges that I wish they still made), and a Harley Davidson Rally in Richmond, VA T-shirt, I don't really know what it's like to have a brother.
Buddy has always been a silly name to me, but it's all I've ever known to call him. I've never asked him if he didn't like it. I've known a few people by a name different than the one they were given, and it made me feel special. My ex's name was Benjamin, but everyone except his parents called him Gage. KC, a name we called my sophomore roommate, was known as Beth (her real name) when she went home for Christmas vacation. Only high school friends can call Donald Ellis "Donnie," and because I can, I mark a place in time, a place where I had privilege by being around.
And that's how Buddy is for me. We are only united genetically (see I am an American mutt) by our mother, so Buddy gets to call my father Bob. Even though Buddy is the only name I've used for my brother, it doesn't fall out of the mouth naturally when when I talk about him to others. I say it and I feel like I've let out some stupid family secret. Since I wasn't around at all when Buddy was growing up, I don't know when the name began to get used. My mother had had a bad divorce with Buddy's dad, and since Buddy was Brady Jr., maybe my mother didn't want to be reminded that their son bore his name. Mom says Buddy's dad beat her, but I don't think it was that easy. Buddy and I talk. There are secrets I'm still uncovering about my mother. Buddy is my filter through which I see the truth about deception, as it runs deep in our family. He's 41 now, but even when I was in college and for once we shared the same state for a few years while he was stationed at an Army base in Virginia, he always seemed old and wise simply because he got to see my mother in action. By the time I was born, there were no witnesses left to clash with any story she fed me about my family tree; my parents managed to disown most of their extended family and children, who by this time were grown up and had kids of their own.
Buddy is the only sibling that did not take off and leave me behind with my aging parents, and I've always been thankful for that. He told me the truth, never avoiding confrontation. I needed that. I still need that. But when it comes to the fact that Buddy is my brother, I wonder how close we are able to be, how close we are. Of course I love him, but since he's never been around, if something were to happen to him, I don't know if I'd even cry. Our relationship has always been more of a business deal than siblings. Our business is maintaining our mother as she manipulates us from time to time, trying to tell one of us one thing and hiding it from the other. Our business is in the comfort of simply knowing that neither of us is alone in our family, that at the very least we can lean on each other. Our family is a dotted line that fades out at both ends so that all you can do is concentrate on you as one dot and the few other dots still staying vivid in your life.
Buddy never forgot my birthday, even though he was never around for it. He took me on my first motorcycle ride, which turned out to be a 6 hour drive to make a suprise visit to mom and Bob. Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I was terrified we'd fly off and into the ocean because we didn't seem tethered to anything. He visited me at the house I was renting in college, where he got along so well with my friends that he stayed up talking with them long after I went to bed. He saw me graduate. He knew before it happened that I would break up with my college boyfriend. He called now and then, even when he was living in Germany, where he's lived for the last 10 years or more, where he's still living, working on wife #3, this time an American, which my mom thinks will somehow work better than the others, that this one will last. Last August, he and I sat on the stoop of the place in the Quarter I'd put him and his two daughters up for the weekend. He smoked a fat cigar and told me all the crazy things that go on at Harley rallys. Buddy is a Harley man, owns two hogs. He's funny and still dapper for his age. If anything gets me to escape the states for a tour in Europe, it'll be Buddy. He's been dying to get me into the Army, Europe or both, teaching ESL on Army bases there. That's one of many things we don't see eye to eye, but that's ok too.
We're lot alike, Buddy and me. We were both left alone to run the streets at 12 or so and pretty much raised ourselves, each in a different generation. We both like moving around a lot and can't seem to settle anywhere. We have gone through a few SO's. Buddy's the man all men aspire to be; instead of wanting a man like my father, I use Buddy for the mold.
If I hadn't had Buddy around, life in my distant family would have been a lot harder to negotiate, and since family is where so much stems, I would surely have been a smaller person without him.