Today is my little brother’s 40th birthday, which means he’s not so little anymore. But to me, he’ll always be my little brother. Forty years ago, we were on my Uncle John’s farm in Kingman, fishing at the creek. My parents were relaxing in lawn chairs, watching us kids fish and annoy one another. Uncle John’s farm was a mainstay in my childhood. A place we went often to get away, to spend time with one another, to be kids. Including the grown-ups. We chased cows, fished in the creek, played for hours on the tire-swing next to the old shed, shot baskets in the hoop attached to the old barn, sunbathed atop the old barn, placed firecrackers in cow patties, swam in the above-ground pool behind the farm-house, hunted for Easter eggs, shot Roman Candles, clay pigeons, and spent warm Kansas nights tucked in sleeping bags in the back of Uncle John’s pickup truck. The adults did pretty much the same, minus the cow pattie explosions and sunbathing, but they did cook, talk, sip Coleman cooler-cold Coors, and exhale. The farm was a place they could relax, completely.
So, wouldn’t it be appropriate that the farm would be where my brother chose to begin his journey. My mother’s water broke as she sat watching my cousins and me from the banks of the creek. Within minutes I was tossed, literally, into the back seat as my father prepared to “haul ass” to Wichita, sliding onto the dirt road and leaving my older sister behind. She was sunbathing on top of the barn and we couldn’t wait. Luckily, we made it to St. Francis Hospital in Wichita just in time, and the little sibling I eagerly anticipated was here, John Francisco Castro.
Being only four years apart, we naturally became very close and I watched as he lived up to such a weight-bearing name: John, after my uncle with the legendary farm who was also his Godfather, and Francisco after my maternal and paternal grandfathers. After forty years, I believe he has done well in living up to the expectations. John has abundant personality, charm, and a genuine soul. He is the best of both of my parents. He bears my father’s warm heart, and passion for sports, especially golf. And he carries my mother’s strength, and somewhat of the infamous Vasquez temperament (which can be a good thing), and their combined ethic for hard work and need for family.
And although it’s hard to imagine that the little brother with whom I built forts out of blankets and kitchen chairs in the living room, rode bicycles up and down Waco Street, ran through the water sprinkler looped over Mom’s clothesline, took for a ride in my first car, bought his first beer, and took to his first concert, is now forty-years-old. It’s harder to imagine my life without him. He is one of my best friends and I consider myself blessed because not too many people have the relationship that I have with my little brother (and big sister). We are more than family, more than friends. We are one. As Bono once sang, “One life with each other. Sister. Brother.”
Happy Birthday, John.