Birthday Wishes to My Lil Brother, the Rockstar

It was an unusual arrangement, one that drew the notice of visiting guests and friends. Why did I share a room with my younger brother, John Paul, when he could have just as easily shacked up with our older brother, Andre?

In retrospect, I imagine it was because Andre was the eldest and had already acclimated to enjoying a room on his own. I inhabited the master bedroom (such sacrificial parents!), which, being naturally more spacious, lent itself nicely to a roommate.

And the setup stuck. John Paul outgrew his crib, and twin beds were secured. We quickly became inseparable—mostly because he was afraid of the dark and couldn’t bear to be alone in the bedroom. We’d stay up late into the night, exchanging funny stories and bedtime lore, bursting into laughter every time my mother chastised us from across the hall.

On weekends, with the help of Andre, we’d erect a network of tents inside the bedroom using blankets, nightstands and the dresser.

Sitting in Santa's lap. Clockwise from left: John Paul, me, and Andre

If ever I had a schoolmate over, John Paul would wiggle his way into our playtime, stealing the attention and proving to be the classic younger-brother nuisance.

Eventually he ousted me from my cherished seat at the dinner table adjacent to Mom so that she could keep a closer eye on his fussy eating behavior. And in the car, I was also displaced, relegated to the middle seat when he grew too big to be nestled between me and Andre.

That cute innocence!

But somehow I didn’t mind (too much).

Maybe our uncanny connection is that we are both Scorpios, our birthdays separated by a mere six days. Often my mother would throw us a joint party, but there would always be two distinct cakes. 

Maybe it was because John Paul and Andre insisted I partake in all of their activities, whether it was basketball outside in the driveway, or taking turns playing Super Nintendo on weekends. My brothers fought fiercely to include me in their adventures, even if being “one of the boys” involved an occasional punch in the stomach for when I was out of line.

Me and the birthday boy

John Paul was incessantly reminded by his teachers of the big shoes he had to fill—two pairs, in fact: mine and Andre’s. It was forever a challenge at home to get him to buckle down and focus on his studies. He just couldn’t be bothered with inanities like schoolwork, and he despised reading assigned literature. He’d ridicule that authors couldn’t find a live audience for their stories and thus had to resort to the written word to express their voices.

Homework or not, John Paul excelled effortlessly in class. He always dazzled us with his exceptional grades and faultless memory. His recall of minutiae, particularly lines from movies or lyrics from songs, continues to amaze me to this day.

It’s no surprise that John Paul has gone on to become a published organic chemist who is imminently expecting his doctorate. His papers have appeared in renowned scientific journals, and he is frequently invited to present his breakthroughs in conferences worldwide.

Accolades aside, he’s still the same stubborn, intensely proud, modest, sociable, fun-loving, easygoing, versatile jokester he was back when we shared a childhood bedroom. He’s grown up into a kind-hearted gentleman, one who cherishes a balance between hard work and hardcore downtime. His beautiful, deep voice inspires goosebumps—I have resolved to nominate him for The Voice once he finishes his PhD—and he knows how to make a mean banana bread.

John Paul treated us to his lyrical voice at my wedding

Before I get all mushy and teary-eyed, I just want to say how much I love you, John Paul. May all your days be golden, and may you capitalize on every success you set your heart to. Because nobody—absolutely nobody—is more deserving.

Happy birthday, kid.

Doesn't he look dapper? Beauty runs in the family ;)


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