When I was a kid, my brother was my hero.
I looked up to him more than anyone else in the world. I did whatever I could to be like him, from the way I dressed, to the jokes I told.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship my brother and I share, in light of the fact that he is getting married in a matter of weeks. One conclusion I keep coming back to is, that I would not be who I am without him.
My brother has always been the more athletic of the two of us. One of the main reasons for that is because I was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. It's a condition that, understandably, made my mother hyper-sensitive about allowing me to engage in most contact sports.
Instead, I would settle for watching my brother excel at his sport of choice -- soccer. When I was in junior high, I even volunteered to serve as the team's manager. I guess, in retrospect, I figured being able to spend time with my brother was worth fetching water for a bunch of sweaty, soccer players.
In school, I struggled to find my own identity, yet I was proud to be known by many as one of my brother's two younger siblings. My little sister never seemed to battle the same identity issues I had, so I developed what I continue to refer to as "middle-child syndrome."
At any rate, there have been various points in my life when I have been forced to find my own way, apart from my brother. The first time this happened was after he graduated from high school, and joined the U.S. Navy. Another occurred when he spent 2 1/2 years aboard a missionary ship, traveling the world.
Those times contained a bit of self-discovery for me. I couldn't do as I had normally done, which was to gauge my own abilities and interests by those of my brother. I had to make my own decisions, and accept the possibility that he, as well as others, might not agree with them.
As a result, I've been able to build a nice, little life for myself. I have a job I enjoy, a house to call my own, and a wife I could never be good enough to deserve. None of those aspects of my life were things on which I sought my brother's approval, as I might have in my younger days.
I'm still blown away by the concept that I made it to the altar before he did.
That brings me to his upcoming wedding, at which I will be serving as best man, just as he did for me 3 1/2 years ago. I had hoped he would select me for the task, but he's got some good, close friends, so I didn't know, for sure, what he would do.
When I found out he wanted me to be the one standing next to him, as he begins life's journey with his new bride, I was elated. As I wrote in a recent column, he and his fiancee have endured a great deal to get to this point in their lives, and as his brother, I'm happy to see those trials come to an end.
But, the other reason I'm happy to be the best man in his wedding is because, in many ways, I'm still the little kid who has a sense of what my wife calls the "hero worship" of my big brother. The idea that he would choose me, over all the other people in this world, to hand him the ring he will place on his love's finger, is an absolute honor.
On my brother's wedding day, he's going to have a lot of things running through his mind - from the joy of starting life with the woman he loves, to the struggles those first few years of married life can bring. I just hope he knows, when he takes those vows, how proud his little brother is of him, and how humbled I will be to share in that moment.
Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.