Oh Nine, Oh Nine. Just-in Time

The year was 1975. Excitedly, we stocked the back of our red station wagon with pillows and blankets. Then, armed with Old Maid, homemade Chex mix and Jelly Jammer cookies, we set off on a family vacation. It was on this trip, where I first realized that my younger brother, Justin, was intelligent and possessed the gift of wisdom and the power of discernment.

In those days of car trips, we were not held hostage by DVD's or hand-held video games. So as the traveling minutes turned to hours, our creative juices waned. The license plate and ABC game had been played to exhaustion. To spice things up, I decided to reveal a secret I had been keeping from my brothers since 1968. I was an alien; a true, through and through, real space article sent to spy on them. My brothers will deny it, but they believed me for 32.5 seconds. But then the intelligence, wisdom and discernment kicked in and Justin began to argue saying that I was not an alien. Thanks Justin for believing that your sister wasn't alien-strange. Little did Justin know, that strangely enough, this gave me comfort and I loved him for it.

Then there was the time that David Johnson was bullying Justin. David tried to overcome the fact that he lived in a baby blue house by being a big tough meany. And on this particular summer day he tackled Justin down onto the pavement of our driveway. I can't explain what happened inside me when I saw Justin being beaten up. I had not ever felt that way before, nor since. Like the ability of rising bread dough to pop off a lid, my fulminating anger propelled me to actions not normally in my behavioral library. I ran over to David who was on top of Justin and began pulling his hair as hard as I could. Astonishingly, David didn't flinch. Even more astonishingly, I yanked harder all the while wondering where my violent streak was coming from. I continued to do some other things to David that I am not proud of, but it serves to illustrate the responsibility I felt to protect my younger brother. I felt a deep love for him then, and it has only strengthened through the years.

Justin has always had a fantastic sense of humor. One year when he was away for Christmas, living in Indiana, he sent home a Christmas card that showed him wearing a messy toupee. The caption read, "Hair Piece on Earth."

Yesterday was Justin's birthday and more people sent him birthday greetings on Facebook than voted for Ross Perot. Not only does he have a strong magnetic appeal, but he has a way of making you feel special and a way of making your ribs and cheeks ache from laughing so hard. He is a successful businessman and photographer and has found a way to make a living while acting out his passion. He is sought after for his expertise. Just yesterday, a highly popular blog interviewed him for photography tips. Read it here. He is dependable and disciplined. For example, for one year he took a picture of himself every single day. **Update: Correction - Justin did the daily self-picture for 5 1/2 years without missing even once.

My brother is my idol in every way. In fact, both my husband and I think so highly of Justin, that we named one of our sons after him. Justin invests in people, relationships and friendships and that is something that I too often place on a lower rung of my ladder. But his example reminds me that in the grand scheme of things, it is our connections with people not acheivements that ultimately govern our happiness.

Happy Birthday Justin!! I honor you and am in awe of you!!

PS: Check out Justin's work here.

1975. Ferris (Justin), Reggie and Ms. Fish. Incidentally, you can see the baby blue house in the background.


Justin Hackworth said...

Wow, Jenni. Thanks for this. Usually you don't hear this kind of a speech about someone unless it's their funeral. I'm honored.

I must clarify two things. #1 I never believed you were an alien. Not even for 32 seconds. #2 I did the picture a day for 5 1/2 years, not one year. Any chump could do it for one year. (Never missed a day, either).

Oh, one more thing. I love this picture of the three of us. You forgot to mention that this shows the last year I had a full head of hair. The other thing you forgot to mention is how you always liked to dress like Grandma Gee, which is why you're shown here with a shawl. A shawl! Your 9 years old for heavens sake.

Again, thanks. I love you too.

Amy said...

Awww, Jenni, this is so super nice. You're so kind to Justin. I can't believe you mentioned the alien, because Justin just referred to that story about two days ago, I think in a silly song he was singing to our kids . . . anyway, it came up. I love that you said you loved him for not believing you. That's so sweet.

And, of course, I love your shawl.


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