Sibling Affection: In Praise of the Birthday Boy

This piece is dedicated to my elder brother Andre, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. Sadly, I could not be with him, as we are separated by seas, continents, and ten time zones.


Every child has a mentor, someone to whom she looks up and constantly seeks approval. For me, it was and remains Andre. The eldest among the three of us—we have a younger brother named John Paul—Andre is a wizard in everything he does.

He aced every subject effortlessly, particularly math, never having to enlist the aid of our parents.

He was easily the better piano player between the two of us, practicing regularly where I procrastinated shamelessly.

He was naturally adept at playing video games, from our first console Super Nintendo to its carefully chosen successor, the Sega Dreamcast.

He was extremely tech-savvy, ensuring we were early movers and had state-of-the-art technology long before anyone else did.

And boy did he know how to fashion slingshots and bows and arrows out of backyard tree branches and yarn that he’d weave himself. My feather-tipped arrow glided to victory in a sixth-grade Native-American culture day, thanks to Andre’s superior craftsmanship.

No doubt, it was not easy being the eldest. There was no one to guide him if he encountered any scholastic hurdles. He could only consult himself and his fountain of creativity, which fortunately flows without limit. 

I still recall how he taught me the Pythagorean Theorem when I was still years shy of algebra and advanced geometry. I in turn made it the subject of a class project and passed it on to the entire elementary school during a math field day. Everyone was dazzled with my precociousness, but if only they knew it was Andre imbuing my mind with his genius.

If I excelled in school and graduated at the top of my class, it is because Andre’s own foregoing performance inspired me. I so wanted to be my brother’s sister, and every teacher we had in common reminded me of the big shoes I had to fill.

In high school, Andre instructed me on how to prioritize my commitments and to complement rigorous academic courses with extracurricular activities and community leadership—it would work wonders on my college applications. He convinced me I could trump the SAT IIs as a mere 14-year-old—a task usually reserved for high school seniors—and I did. 

He’d warn me about certain belligerent teachers and how to stay on their good side. And he glossed over my literature compositions, making sure I had a strong foothold on the English language that would serve me well throughout university and beyond.

When I matriculated to college, I elected to be an engineer just as Andre had. Fearful of coming off as an annoying copycat, I chose mechanical engineering because it appeared to be the closest cousin to his field of civil engineering. We even had the opportunity to enroll in machine shop together, he a senior, and I a lowly sophomore. I like to tease him though that I finished the course project first—he had teamed up with a friend, and I, working individually, had no one to distract me!

To this day, Andre remains my personal and professional compass. He is assiduous, brilliant, and above all, the master of efficiency. I prefer to think I acquired my time management skills from him, for no one can hold a candle to how much he can achieve in such little time—he is seriously talented.

And so on this blessed August close, I want Andre to know what a vital and influential figure he is in my life. I’m 100% confident John Paul feels the same, but their relationship is slightly different. Being the boys that they are, they share an unbridled enthusiasm for PlayStation 4 and go at it as partners, even if they reside on opposite coasts. Their brotherly bond is unshakable.

Dear Andre, I raise my glass to you. May today and everyday be sweet recompense for your big heart, boundless generosity, and admirable sense of self. Thank God you are the firstborn!


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