By guest blogger, Kenneth A. Turkewitz.
A few years ago, I did something a little unusual. I spoke to my little brother for the first time in about 16 years. Well, maybe it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.
The story starts when I was 22, just about to graduate from college. Following in the footsteps of my older brother, I signed up with the local Big Brothers Association. (I didn’t know at the time about Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. Once I had been accepted as a Big Brother, I wasn’t prepared to go back to square one to start over with JBBBS.)
I met Bobby when he was seven years old. As with some Little Brothers, there had been no steady adult male role model in Bobby’s life. Bobby and I went to movies and on short outings. It felt a little awkward at first. I couldn’t always figure out what to talk about. I’m sure he felt the same way. Where was that natural flow we were supposed to have?
As time went on, we got a little closer. After two years of being matched with Bobby, I went on a year-long overseas assignment, and so Big Brothers terminated our “official” relationship. Bobby and I stayed in touch, but it wasn’t the same as being there. Later, I married and started a family of my own. Bobby and his family attended the wedding, and Bobby and I continued to do a few things together.
Eventually, our lives got very busy and we started seeing less of each other. I made one brief visit to his home when I was in his neighborhood. Bobby was about 21 at the time and getting ready to go abroad with the Air Force. I couldn’t believe that I was looking up at my Little Brother, who was now a man.
Over the years, I would occasionally make unsuccessful attempts to track him down. (His family moved, and he has a fairly common last name. This made the search a little difficult.) Three years ago, though, an Internet search included a telephone number. One thing led to another, and I eventually had a long conversation with, first, his mother, and, later, Bobby himself.
Bobby now owns a successful computer business, is recently married, and is still with the Air Force Reserves. I was delighted at how successful and grown-up he had become. I got great satisfaction in learning his inspiration for being in the computer business was using (well, playing on) a Mac SE that I had at home in the mid-80s. I’d like to think that I had something to do with his direction and with the man that he’s grown up to be.
I always knew that the decision to become a Big Brother was a good one. But now I know exactly how good it was.
Ken Turkewitz is the President of the New England Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. He is a recently-accepted and soon-to-be-matched Big Brother with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston.