My childhood front yard on Shannon Drive was the flattest on the block. Half of the neighborhood spent hours playing kickball there. One specific section of sidewalk was home plate, the holly bush in front of the house, first base, a shrub dividing our yard from the neighbor’s was second and an enormous pine tree was third. I would close my eyes and winch when I reached first base hoping to not grab stickers on the holly bush. The second base shrub had one bald side from being grabbed so many times and the bark had been peeled off hand high on the pine tree. Sliding in to the concrete home base was not advisable.

In the middle of one close game, the neighborhood trouble maker called the younger of two brothers a slowpoke shrimp. The older brother instantly tore in to the trouble maker. My younger brother tried to break up the fight and one of the neighbor kids got a front tooth knocked out. It was a baby tooth and my dad was a dentist. I’m sure the neighborhood gossip was good that week.

The trouble maker kid learned a very important thing in my front yard. You can call your own brother names, but there is high risk involved in calling someone else’s brother slowpoke shrimp. Brothers stick together that way.

Jim has an older brother, Joe, and a younger brother, Jerry. The Brawner brothers are a tight crew. They took care of each other and, I’m sure, covered for each other when necessary. Joe is several years older than Jim and Jerry and everyone knew not to mess with the younger Brawner boys. Joe is a protective kind of a guy.

Joe has been fighting for a year … not with the neighborhood trouble maker, but with cancer. He knows his little brothers are in the fight with him. If they could, Jim and Jerry would give the bully a black eye and knock out a tooth. That’s just what brothers do.

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