(Post by AIMEE LEDEWITZ WEINSTEIN)
I started calling my brother “Dink” when he was about twelve, and I was sixteen. That was the year I got my driver’s license and my parents gave me my mom’s old car to drive if I would agree to drive my brother everywhere he needed to go. Alan had his bar mitzvah that year, and the Hebrew School carpool was particularly grueling, but I made the deal to get the wheels.
My brother and I had always been close. He was the opposite sex to me, and four whole years younger, so there really wasn’t any competition. Instead we conspired on ways to make our parents crazy, taking turns masterminding plans designed to put mom and dad in a tailspin while strengthening the bond between Alan and me. That year I first had the car, though, we became even closer. He was having some academic difficulties and turned to me for help since I always found school so easy. He asked advice on clothes and girls, as well, and we had time for long talks. I don’t really recall the origin of the nickname precisely, but it definitely stuck – I still use it nearly 25 years later.
As Alan and I grew, I went on to college and then he did, but our closeness didn’t wane. I remember taking a day off from my job the day my parents brought him up to school – to Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. My parents thought I was crazy, but there was no way I was going to let them take that journey without me. I think I cried just as much as my mother on the way home.
I used to joke in those days that when Alan got married, I would be the biggest and smartest girl standing up there with them – and at five foot two in stocking feet, I’m no giant. But my brother, who grew late, in tenth grade, when he had despaired of ever getting over five feet, grew to a final height of six feet even, and still
preferred girls who were just about five feet tall and as dumb as stumps, to put it kindly. I met only a few of them, but they were all the same, and now I can’t recall even one clearly. So it was a delightful surprise when Alan brought his wife to meet us the first time – she is tall and stately and very bright. He had met his match and finally recognized it.
My brother and I are very different and have made a lot of different choices in our lives. For one thing, Alan has a cooking degree and a degree in hospitality management. He is a great salesman, suave with clients, and a master party planner. He is a creative whiz in a kitchen and never uses a recipe. I couldn’t sell anything
to anyone, and even though I talk a lot, no one would ever describe me as suave – just chatty. I’m not that bad in the kitchen if I have a recipe to fall back on – in fact I have written down a bunch of Alan’s successes but he says he never writes anything down and nothing ever comes out quite the same way twice. He detested school almost as much as I loved it. For him, college was a means to an end – to get the good job he wanted at the end of it. For me, I could have stayed in academia forever. In fact, I have – with my doctorate I am now a professor of writing for a university.
My brother has chosen to stay in Florida, where he got his final degree, and where his wife is from.
I moved to Washington DC and then Japan, and now that I’ve lived in the same rental house in Tokyo for five full years, it is my longest continuous residence since leaving my parents’ house. My brother’s wife also home-schools their two younger children, ages nearly ten and eight, something I would never have the patience to do, and I admire her pluck endlessly. I love my children, but I love them most after school. Those are the choices that Alan and his wife are comfortable with and they do the things that make them happy. He assures me he’s happy and when I see his kids, I can tell they’re happy, so all I can do is be glad that my brother’s life is working for him. Conversely, the choices my husband and I have made are the ones that are right for our life together and our kids.
I could go on and on listing the differences between the two of us, right down to the basics of him being dark and me being fair, a fact I’ve cursed all our lives as he tanned and I burned. But that’s not the point. Recently I have been called out because I am not doing certain things the “right” way – not raising my children to someone else’s standard, not taking a career path someone else expected, and not spending money in a way another person prefers. At first when it happened I was shocked because I thought I was doing pretty well. But then I realized that people are entitled to their own opinions and if they don’t like things about me, then that is their valid opinion. But if I’m happy with myself and my husband and children are happy with me, then really that’s all that matters. It’s disappointing to know that a few people disapprove so sharply of me, but in the end, it is the other parties who are expecting all people to conform to their standards, and it’s unreasonable to expect all people to conform to the same standards. Personally I think it’s a good thing that all people are different; it sure makes life interesting – and sometimes it even makes me grateful to be me instead of someone else!
And that brings me back to my brother. Do I agree with all of the choices he and his wife have made?
Absolutely not. But I would bet if you asked him the same question, he would say that he thinks his sister has
done some pretty bone-headed stuff in her life. But for the “Dink” and me it really doesn’t matter. From where I sit, if it makes him happy, he can paint his house purple and throw a rodeo. I don’t have to do it his way and nor does he have to do things my way. It’s the great part about being siblings – it doesn’t matter how different they are to you; you’re siblings and that’s it. My brother jokingly (I think!) complains all the time that his daughter is just like me – the ten-year-old me that he remembers, and just last week he was teasing me and called me “gross” in a very public forum. I responded that I might be gross, but he’ll always be grosser. Our relationship is grown and different, but still has elements that are similar to how we were raised that neither of us want to let go.
And that’s why, despite our differences, he is now, and forever will be, Dink.
Aimee Ledewitz Weinstein, Tokyo, Japan
Dr. Aimee Weinstein is a writer and writing professor who has lived six out of the last eight years in Tokyo, Japan. She received her doctorate from the Department of Higher Education at George Mason University and has held positions at Temple University Japan, The George Washington University, and George Mason University. She has taught a variety of writing courses, from freshman composition to advanced expository writing. Her work has been published in Kaleidescope, Tokyo Weekender, inTouch, and Asian Jewish Life. She also maintains a regular blog at TokyoWriter, where she fondly observes Tokyo life through the eyes of an American expat and writes about writing. Aimee currently resides in Tokyo with her supportive husband and two beautiful children, where she continues to write and help others in their writing. Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TokyoWriterTweet