I am the middle child. I am 32 months younger than my older brother Mark, and I am 29 months older than my younger brother Jimmy. When I say I am the middle child, I mean it.
Growing up as a middle child, I often found myself in the role of peacemaker, negotiator and moderator. I helped solve arguments over what to watch on television, I helped determine ownership of valuable items such as crayons and baseballs, and I routinely reminded my brothers who my parents loved the most (spoiler alert: me).
Though we grew up in a close knit home and family, our interests could not be more divergent. Jimmy was always interested in sports and athletics, Mark was a voracious reader and teacher, and I always found comfort in music, movies, the arts and technology. My father referred to his three sons as the Poet (Larry), the Athlete (Jimmy) and the Scholar (Mark). Aloud we complained about being so narrowly pigeonholed and defined, but I think we each quietly appreciated our father knowing us for who we were, and celebrating our individual interests and passions.
Actually, looking at the picture above, all the answers are right there. Jimmy is wearing a golf hat from Lake Placid, NY and a pullover from a golf event in Connecticut. Mark is wearing a button down summer shirt. I am wearing a shirt for the band The Right Now, an awesome neo-funk soul band based in Chicago.
The Glickman brothers. Here we are.
Even with childhood now many years behind us, we remain close. Jimmy and I both live in the Chicago area, and we like to meet for dinner when our busy schedules allow. Mark is a rabbi in Calgary, Alberta, and we all make it a point to be in touch often on phone and text. We savor our time together during holidays and family celebrations.
Not too long ago, my dad began to encourage a “boys trip” away. We had done this a couple of times before, but it had been a long time since we last convened at Grand Canyon in 2013. After many emails and phone calls, we finally decided we would gather together in Estes Park, CO to see the Rocky Mountains. We made flight arrangements, we found a beautiful home, and we made plans the best we could…that is to say, we didn’t really make many plans at all. We were just looking forward to spending some time together. So we all flew to Denver.
We fell into routine and familiarity right away. While we waited for Mark’s flight at the airport, my dad, Jimmy and I found a game of Cornhole to enjoy. Just as easily as we used to run into the back yard to play football during Bears games commercials and halftime breaks growing up at home, we broke into teams and started tossing bean bags back and forth.
We collected Mark, and during the car ride to Estes Park, we talked, we laughed, we listened to music. Kidding around, we decided to save time during our weekend together by assigning numbers to jokes we told each other repeatedly.
The “Irving” joke is number 5. The “Goat” joke? That’s number 3.
There was so much I enjoyed about our weekend together, but as the middle child, I think the thing I enjoyed most was being reminded of how close my brothers Mark and Jimmy are to each other. From miles away, and months and months since the last time they were together. Five years apart in age. Vastly different interests, hobbies and professions. Different personalities. This makes no sense.
Jimmy (Athlete) is a successful business leader. He is the Chief Operating Officer of a financial services firm. He is an avid sports fan, and his weekends are usually spent playing basketball, football or golf. During our time together in Colorado, Jimmy watched sports on TV whenever he could, and longingly gazed at the golf courses we drove by on our way to hike or eat.
Mark (Scholar) rarely watches sports, if at all. Mark is a rabbi, and a passionate reader, writer and speaker. During our trip, if we were hanging around the house, Mark was most likely reading his book about the history of the semicolon. Seriously.
Mark spends much of his time at synagogue, a place that Jimmy rarely enters. Jimmy spends his weekends playing golf, and I don’t know that Mark has ever swung a club. There is overlap, too. Jimmy is always reading a book. Mark is always finding a way to exercise and to take care of himself. They both love their awesome kids, they both love our parents, and they both try to spend time doing good deeds. Also, they both think their brother Larry (Poet) is awesome.
This is not a case of opposites attract, but rather a case of the pieces of a puzzle fitting beautifully together. Look at any piece of any jigsaw puzzle. There is give and take, ebb and flow. There are different colors with wacky outlines, and yet they always lock into place perfectly together, resulting in something that is strong, complete and unified.
If my brothers and I all shared the exact same interests and passions, I think our jigsaw puzzle would be pretty boring. One color, a lot of straight lines, and nothing locking in place.
My brothers and I always learn something new when we are together, and I think we come away with a refreshed perspective of the perspective of the other brothers. I am not the sports fan Jimmy is, but I absolutely understand what he sees and appreciates. I enjoyed hearing Mark talk about the book he was reading, and seeing his passion for learning new, sometimes arcane information about punctuation. During our weekend, it was rare that Mark and Jimmy weren’t talking, laughing, and sharing details about their lives that they hadn’t time to share during rushed calls in the car or over text.
I loved being with my brothers on our weekend away, and I deeply appreciated the reminder that although we are all different, in many ways, we lock in place together just fine.
I don’t know if my mom and dad were ever concerned as we were growing up, pursuing such divergent interests, but I hope they are happy and proud of the adults we have become, the lives that we lead, and the relationship we all enjoy with each other. We are not the same people, we are not necessarily passionate about the same things, but we are a close family.
During our weekend together, as the middle child, I enjoyed sometimes sitting back and watching Mark and Jimmy talk, laugh and connect. The outlines are sometimes wacky. The colors don’t always match. But when the pieces connect, they connect perfectly.