My brother and I both had shiny red bicycles. The chrome spoked wheels sparkled in the sun. Eddie’s bike was larger, had a single saddle seat, and a square metal basket was attached to his handlebars. My bicycle was smaller with a slender banana saddle and there were red and white tassels hanging from my hand grips. We both had taken playing cards – red hearts for me and black spades for him – and attached them in such a way to our bike’s front wheels to make a motor noise as the cards flapped against the spokes.
This one Saturday morning, Eddie left on his bike to visit friends and cruise the neighborhood. I took my time eating frosted flakes and watching cartoons. But eventually, the sunny morning drew me outside. On my bike, I kicked the stand up and pushed off zig zagging down the driveway.
Our house was on one end of Stennis Avenue. The new Ocean Springs subdivision was only a few blocks away from Biloxi Bay. The street went down, dipping and then rising up again.
I just started to head down the steep incline when I saw Eddie at the other end turning toward home. I stopped and began waving my hands and hollering. Eddie stopped.
My only brother was also my older brother. Five years my senior, there was more than one time when he stood in the gap for me. But other times, I got the rougher end of our rough and tumble. I remember him tickling me on many occasions until
I screamed for mercy. Other times I would taunt him, baiting him until he could not stand it any more. More than once, he was reprimanded by my parents as I chuckled under my breath.
“Hey!” I yelled sitting atop my bike. “Let’s have a dog fight?”
Eddie yelled back. I couldn’t understand his reply. So, I sounded back even louder, “Dog fight?”
I took off down the hill building speed. Eddie began peddling. I fixed my glare on him, determined that he would not get the best of his little brother. Strangely, he returned my gaze with a perplexed look. The distance between us was swallowed up until we both hitour brakes, skidding on the pavement and then colliding – metal basket, handle bars and fenders crunched.
“What are you doing?” Eddie screamed.
Defiantly, I stood my ground. “I wasn’t going to lose to you!”
“Lose what?” he replied with the same perplexed look he had moments earlier.
“The dog fight!” I retorted.
The confusion vanished. “I thought you said, ‘Let’s go see a dog fight?’”
“Oh,...” I said. “Well, I didn’t.”
It took a few minutes for us to untangle our bicycles. Both bikes had bent wheels, so we pushed them back to the house.
Bad communication can result in big misunderstandings. What may at first seem only awkward can turn into something destructive. So, how do we avoid the crashes? Here’s what I learned:
First, make sure you hear what is being said – and unsaid. Avoid the urges of having to be “right,” and always put the other person’s feelings first.
The Apostle Paul writes to the Philippians: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Eddie passed away a few years ago and I miss him. Sadly, the “dog fight” misunderstanding wasn’t our only misunderstanding. But each time, the love between two brothers prevailed.