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Sibling rivalry never seems to disappear
My brother Kevin turns 50 today.

It's really no surprise that he's downplayed it. Since my birthday was on Aug. 17 and I am 13 months older, he prefers to rib me about being "more" than a half-century old - as if 50 is so much younger than 51.

But that's the way it operates. Sibling rivalry still has orbital pull in the family gene pool.

I was kind of surprised to hear GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan give a speech in which he mentioned the sibling rivalry that exists between his brother and him today even though they are in their 40s. I thought, wow, sounds like me and Kevin.

I don't consider myself competitive, so I'm not sure where rivalry comes out with Kevin toward me or me toward Kevin. But being the second of three boys put Kevin in the position of having to prove himself, besting his older brother and competing with baby brother Jason.

But I hear stories that offer possible explanations of how it all started. I don't remember but I guess I picked on the poor kid.

My grandmother - who'll be 93 in October - likes to remind me how the two of us boys would sit quietly in our high chairs on opposite sides of the dinner table. Kevin would be eating, minding his own business when I'd lob a verbal grenade just to get him riled up. According to Nana, I'd point my finger at him and blurt out, "You shut up, Kevin!" Apparently I enjoyed watching him pout and melt into blubbering mass of tears. But I have no memory of that sadism.

I do remember the time we had an argument in the side yard and I pushed him backward. I swear that I didn't know that there was a row of my dad's potted cactus plants behind him but he went right down on one. Talk about wailing! I remember my mother picking tiny cactus needles out of his bare naked behind, which was shining beneath 60-watts of family exposure. I do remember feeling guilt as I walked by and watched the spectacle. He argued for years that he pushed me into the cactus but my parents back me up on the facts.

While that incident was directly my fault, Kevin got hurt through a lot of self-inflicted stupidity. Once while us boys sat in the car as mom shopped in the old Save Mart at the corner of Tully and Bowen - in the late 1960s kids didn't fear kidnapping - he pulled the cigarette lighter out of the socket and pressed his thumb against it. He whooped and hollered as a large white blister of char-broiled skin grew on his thumb. Surely a memory that I may have dared him to do it couldn't possibly be true.

During the Evel Knievel craze of the 1970s, Kevin decided to take up BMX bike racing. He would launch his bike off an earthen ramp to do 360 degree in the air flips. One day he planted his face in the ground and knocked some teeth loose. I am sure all I did was shake my head.

I did have a right to laugh, however, when my mother called him on this annoying (if not disgusting) habit of sticking out his rear and grabbing it with both hands as he'd walked across the room, usually in answer to something someone said. It was his way of saying, "Kiss this." One day Mom had enough and forced him do it back and forth across the room as we all watched - until he boo-hooed and cried about being made a spectacle. It was fun to see his cockiness come down a notch or two.

He then grew into a recklessness teen. After he got his driver's license, I feared for his safety. On one night in late November, 1978 we got a call from someone in Waterford who told us Kevin ran our family Mazda stationwagon into a dark Arabian horse near the Dry Creek Bridge. The horse went up over the hood of the car, through the windshield, peeled back the top of the car like a can opener and ended up in front of the car as instant roadkill. Kevin and his friend were rushed to the hospital. Our four-mile journey to the hospital was emotionally torturous as we had no hint of his condition and didn't know if we'd see a grotesque and disfigured boy or possibly a corpse.

I remember my heart pounding as we walked around the corner of the privacy curtain in ER and saw him fairly unscathed. Only this time they were picking glass fragments out of his flesh, not cactus.

The truth came out later that Kevin had been driving the car in excess of 90 mph that night.

Life has its compensations. Kevin has long recited his list of physical woes that's plagued him but escaped me. I don't have the hand trembling that he does, the bad feet, and never dealt with weight issues. But in high school he was more well known than I, since he was the actor in high school stage plays and musicals, was the drum major and the social butterfly. He appeared in the yearbook more than I did. And today he lives in a nicer neighborhood than do I.

Today Kevin is the one who enjoys a laugh at my expense. When I wrote poems for my mother and grandmother for Mother's Day gifts, he rolled his eyes and tread on the sentimentality in which I wrote them as if to say, "Oh brother, trying to one-up me." Kevin is unrelenting in ridiculing me about my choice of Hollister clothing for casual attire. He accuses me of trying to dress like a 17-year-old and not even a comment from his daughter-in-law ("Well, Kevin, at least Jeff can fit into Hollister") has shut him up.

Despite what I have to put up with, I love my brother and am glad he survived the harrowing times and that he has reached the age of AARP with me. I continue to learn things from Kevin and at times look up to him for the things he has initiated in life. He's had more life experiences and in the past 24 years of my continuous residence at one place, he's probably moved 15 times.

But I'm hoping the sibling rivalry tones down in our 50s. Because right now I'm just willing to change brands.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at