Brothers and best friends | Column | The Press and Standard

by | April 7, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: April 4, 2018 at 10:03 am

I think it was the third time he hung up on me Monday that I realized: My brother T-Bob is actually my best friend.
Now, by “hung up” I mean… well, he hung up. We do it all the time. It just means he’s walking into Publix, or that I’m in the library, or that fire ants are crawling up his leg. One minute we’re talking and the next minute, “click.”
If other people could listen to our last words before we hang up — what am I saying? We all know someone, somewhere is listening. Or is that T-Bob’s conspiracy theories rubbing off on me?
Anyway, here’s a sample:
“Ringo Starr never gets respect.” Click.
“Oh, look, pomegranates.” Click.
“This guy has an axe.” Click.
After “click,” we just shrug and redial later. Or text. Or email. (There’s no Facebook or Instagram option because he doesn’t do social media, which is strange for a guy with more friends in more places than anyone I know.)
Sometimes I think we call each other just to argue. He’s a former wild child-turned-conservative. I am not. He drives a Honda; I like Fords. He yells when he’s mad. I walk away. We’re very different people.
But here’s the thing: No one else shares what we do: the memories, the oblique references, the inside jokes. We grew up on the same dirt road in the same small house in the same backwoods town. We speak in shorthand. We’re a tribe of two. Our siblings, Bubba and Moonbeam, were older than us by 12 and 10 years. We both love them deeply, but they don’t know what we know.
T-Bob’s 18 months older than me, and I’m told he didn’t greet my arrival with unbridled joy. In fact, he often climbed into my crib and stole my bottle. Mom would find him hiding under the bathroom sink, sucking away. He’s the reason I’m the runt of the litter.
As I said, we phone, text or email every day. In fact, we do it so often that when Widdle once asked, “Talk to T-Bob lately?” and I replied, “Not for three days,” he sat up and blurted, “Is the man dead?” (He was in Italy.)
Our FaceTime is hilarious, because I say, “You do know my nose isn’t actually this big, right?” and he says, “I have more hair than this. Honestly.” Our text emojis are usually clowns, tired face and airplanes. (We both love to fly.) Our emails are mostly YouTube video links, heavy on Steve Perry and Marvin Gaye.
For years, T-Bob had a quirk I couldn’t figure out: When we ended phone calls the normal way (versus hanging up), he’d say, “Take care, bye,” while I was saying, “Love you, brother!” His not saying it back didn’t bother me because, well, he’s my brother. I know he loves me.
Yet one day — I don’t know where this came from — I decided enough was enough. I said, “Gotta go, love you” as I was running errands, and he said, “Yep. Take care.”
Just like that, I started yelling, “SAY IT! SAY IT!!!” I was in a shopping center and people were turning to stare. Mom always said, “A lady never raises her voice in public,” but I was on a mission.
T-Bob let out that cackling laugh I know so well. Then he said, “What’s your problem?”
“You know what! SAY IT! SAY IT!!!” I kept shouting until he finally caved. Ever since, he says it every time: “Love you, sis. Later.”
Which is wonderful, except now I’m too embarrassed to go back to Lowe’s.

(Julie R. Smith, who doesn’t believe in conspiracies, can be reached at

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