I was 5 years old when my little brother was due to join the family. My mom was pregnant, and I could not wait for the baby. I was incredibly excited, as was everyone else in the family. My brother was a surprise. In Afrikaans there is an expression “laat lamijie”, directly translated means late lamb, however it doesn’t really work in English, basically it means. My sister is three years older than me and my brother 5 years younger.
We all waited in anticipation for the baby to arrive. My mom had taught us how to fold cloth nappies and everyone was ready. I would sit on Grandpa Robert’s lap and he would tell me how we may have a St Paddy’s day baby. Grandpa was very excited at the prospect of a St Paddy’s baby and everyone was eagerly counting the days down until his birth.
I used to lie on my mom’s lap and feel the baby kick. The baby was taking what felt like forever to come and I am sure that my mom was as tired of me asking when the baby would come as she was of the wait herself. Mom had decided to have a home birth since it was her third child.
In the darkness of the early morning hours on the 16th of March 1986, I heard a baby crying. I shouted to wake my sister up (Jane loves her sleep and complained about me waking her up for years after that). I ran down the passage with my feet tip tapping on the wooden floors under the carpet. I could barely contain my excitement when I rushed into my parents’ bedroom to find a mid-wife standing by the bed side and my mom holding baby Aidan. Aidan looked dirty, covered in mahogany, coffee brown blood, piercing cries came out of him and when he settled his eyes looked dark blue and barely open, a tiny gap, representing a slit between the two eye-lids. He was wrinkly and pink, almost misshapen and squishy but the picture of pure perfection.
16 March 1986 is the day that my life changed forever. My brother joined our family and brought a beautiful ray of sunshine into my life. I loved Aidan from the crisp, fresh darkness of the morning that he arrived, and he became my friend for life, my big-little brother, my blood and my inspiration.
I remember being a real brat one evening when Aunty Mary and my cousin Christine were visiting. My Aunty Mary wanted to bathe baby Aidan and we all picked out a baby grower for him to wear after his bath. Aunty Mary had specifically involved me in the choosing of his outfit but to me that was not enough. They were bathing my baby brother and I was jealous. I took the baby grower and ran and hid outside. When it came to dressing Aidan after the bath, there was a commotion because the outfit was missing along with me. I remember being in a spot of trouble and thinking that he was my brother and I didn’t like them taking MY brother over. I still giggle about that day. I think I remember it more because I was in trouble although it is pretty funny now.
Aidan grew up and became the sweetest little boy. Aidan has such an incredible heart and he loved me. I think I must have driven him up the wall because I would insist that he play Barbie with me. I feel like I did my bit for him since I remember enduring hours of watching “Kideo” with him. I thought I was the best sister ever, I even let him play with Ken. We had a special bond from day one.
Aidan would come home and repeat “beans, beans they’re good for the heart, the more you eat the more you fart” over and over to try to annoy me. I quickly nicknamed him Beans and to this day I still call him Beans.
When he was in Primary School, he would invite his friend, Sean over and they would pitch a tent and sleep outside. They would have all sorts of treats ready for a midnight feast and when midnight came, Aidan would knock on my window and tell me to join them for the Midnight feast. I would run out of the house and hop into the tent and dig in to the various treats. The midnight feast in the tent is one of my most treasured memories because it reminds me of our bond. He would always call me to join them and that was very special. This shows the kind of relationship that we had. He could have not woken me and had more sweets for him and his friend but instead he wanted his sister there.
My brother did such weird things. Boys are really strange creatures. He was so destructive and often gross. I remember being shocked often at things he would do. I felt like he broke everything. I remember him even breaking the wooden skirting in the entrance hall. The weirdest thing by far though was when him and dad used to have “sword fights”. They would stand outside to have a wee in the garden and sword fight with the wee. Maybe it was only weird because I couldn’t do it. This was a dad and son moment….no girls and I would just think that they were silly.
Baby Aidan had his own room when he was born, and Jane and I shared a room. When Jane became a teenager she was given Aidan’s room and Aidan joined me in my room. This is where we got up to all sorts of nonsense. No one really knew what went on behind that door. Endless hours of fun and lots of giggles and when we fought, we took no prisoners. We had some serious fights, but they were over quickly, and we would go back to playing as quickly as a fight broke out. I even played cars with Aidan and he was crazy about the ninja turtles. I remember him even opting to play a ninja turtle in a school production of some sort. I watched ninja turtles with him and we both agreed that Michelangelo was the coolest.
When my dad took us to the park up the road to the swings, I could always make the swing go the highest, it is something that I still love to do. If there is a swing in the park when we go to the park, I go on it and go as high as I can. I hated the merry-go-round, it always made me dizzy.
When my dad added a bathroom and room to the house, Aidan got his own room, the new room that dad added to the house. I was so excited to have my room all to myself, I conned my dad to paint my room pink and I helped him paint the room. My walls, covered with posters of Brad Pitt and lots of pictures of heart throbs. I even had a picture of Kate moss on my drawing pin board which I would throw darts at. The nerve of her to be dating my boyfriend, Johnny Depp who I had a crush on since watching him in 21 Jump Street on Bop TV. My room was a real teenage girls room and I would write in my diary daily. Aidan and I still spent lots of time together although we out grew the ninja turtles and the babies.
I was a real tom boy growing up, always climbing onto a roof or I was in a tree. We would climb onto the roof and pick the mulberries from the tree that hung over the back wall. Aidan would join me climbing on walls and we had a friend down the road with the perfect tree for a tree house. So, we built a tree house in her garden and we got up to all sorts of mischief. We played tok tokkie (which is when you ring a door bell and run away – the kids of today call it “ding dong ditch), stole flowers from gardens and walked to the park up the road.
Aidan picked up a guitar one day and said he is going to learn how to play, later in that day he came back to me, playing a Nirvana song. I was so shocked. Aidan has an ear for music. Aidan had a band when he was in high school. They didn’t play very long but he had an electric guitar and at one stage he drove me absolutely insane with his friend’s drums that lived in his room for a while. But I was always incredibly impressed with his music ability, although wanting to murder him when he practised drums.
Aidan was quick to pick up on the latest trends, whilst I never had roller blades, he had a pair when they were in. I did try his roller blades, but I gave that up as a bad joke because I was useless and fell almost immediately roasting my knee. He also went through the skate board phase and picked up on it almost instantly. He could do tricks and I loved watching him.
I fell pregnant when I was 22 years old and I had decided (although I never actually found out the sex) that I was going to have a little boy. Keegan was named after Aidan. Keegan and Aidan are both Irish and have the same meaning – little fiery one.
When Keegan was born, he looked just like Aidan as he was born, not for long after that though. The hospital would only allow grandparents and parents in to see the baby. Aidan was so cross that he was not allowed in to see his nephew. I stood by the glass showing him his nephew through the glass. Aidan was only 17 at the time but he loved his little nephew.
Keegan is a lot like Aidan in many ways, although neither of them are really all that fiery, they share many personality traits. They both have strong personalities, are not shy at all but are sometimes introverts but really don’t care what people think about them. They go against the grain and don’t worry about not fitting in.
Aidan used to have long mahogany died hair and would wear his jeans half way down his bum with his colourful boxers sticking out at the top. While he was studying sound engineering he met his incredible wife, Tina. It was not long, and he was wearing well fitted jeans and smarter shirts. The boxers were quickly hidden too. I had not yet met Tina but had heard all about her from Keegan. He said she was the coolest and used to build forts with Keegan in the bedroom.
Tina came into our family, fitting in so perfectly, it was as if she had always been there. She had a way with everyone in the family and clicked with each of us immediately. She is an extraordinary human being and a blessing to our family. I could have not hand-picked a better wife for my brother. She is a Greek girl and has an incredible family. She adores Beans and she stands by his side. She compliments him, and she supports him. A Greek girl, family orientated and yet when he decided to immigrate, she supported him fully. I was very concerned about her as she is very close to her family and I couldn’t imagine how she would be able to live in another country, but she followed her husband and has built an amazing life with him. My niece, 8-month Alice, was born a Canadian. We have been incredibly blessed to have had the family visit South Africa for the last almost 3 weeks. I was overcome by pure elation and filled absolute love when I met my perfect, gorgeous and ever so cute niece and watching Aidan with his daughter has been a very special experience for me. I am enormously proud of the incredible, intelligent, ambitious, successful man who is my baby brother, Aidan, my Beans.
I have cried many times and missed my brother so many days, but I know that I am deeply blessed to have had the amazing relationship that we have shared and out of the blessing, the pain of him being so far away means I am one incredibly lucky lady!
As we say our Goodbyes’s to Beans and his family tomorrow, we know and remember how blessed we are to have them part of our lives. They remain an incredible blessing to us even if they call a country 16000 kilometers away home. My heart is full and grateful for the love that burns that I have for my brother, Beans.