My brother is a year and a half older than me.

We fought a lot when we were growing up. He never broke any of my bones but he did instill in me a lifelong fear of milk-enhanced saliva. As we got older, the fighting lessened. Probably when he went away to college. It took a couple more years after that for me to realize how lucky we were to have each other.

And to actually like each other.

We both married in our early thirties, had a couple of kids each and stayed close, making sure our kids were growing up knowing their cousins. And we’ve been lucky that our spouses have felt the same way. And that they put up with all of the antics that go on when we’re together. (Well, my sister-in-law doesn’t just put up with it, she joins right in.)

In the last month, I’ve spent a lot of time with my brother. Which is surprising when you take in to consideration the fact that he lives in Northern California and I live in South Florida.

We’ve had three occasions to be together: one planned family trip with me and my two kids flying out to see him and his family, one unplanned funeral and one brief 18 hour interlude at our parents’ house before he shipped off on a cruise. All three trips were, well, memorable and each had their own sentiment.

The first trip, the five day family Spring Break one, was slightly marred by my son getting the stomach flu on one of the two days his as-close-to-a-brother-as-he’ll-ever-have cousin had off from school. Poor kid. And poor me. I was the one down on my hands and knees cleaning up an incredible amount of vomit. Impressive actually.

But both before and after the 36 hours of sickness, we had some memorable experiences. Lots of jumping on the trampoline, walking the Embarcadero and drinking pure molten TCHO chocolate. And walking through the drizzly, stately and awe-inspiring Muir Woods. Just me, my brother and his niece and nephew.

Muir Woods in the drizzle

The second trip, the funeral, was unexpected.

My 94 year-old grandmother, Mildred D’Lugin Evans, passed away late on a Wednesday night. My brother and I met up in the Atlanta airport the Saturday after to hop on a puddle jumper to Fayetteville, NC. The town where our mom was born and raised. And where both my grandparents made a huge difference in people’s lives. Something to aspire to.

Though the funeral was sad, it was also beautiful. A celebration of a long life lived well.

My brother and I shared a room at the hotel, double beds of course, across the hall from our parents. And after the funeral, engaged in our usual antics which included me putting my stepfather’s pajama bottoms on over my pants and my brother and I throwing all of their pillows around the room. Stupid, silly fun.The kind that comes naturally to us. And one of the things that bonds us.

Gaggy, me and my brother (Circa 1970)

But the third encounter was the best. Short, sweet and with more laughs than one would think is humanly possible. My sides hurt and my eyes were wet. Our poor mother was at the receiving end of most of the goofs. And my husband gallantly tried to come to her rescue more than once. But she loved it. Who wouldn’t want to be made fun of for hours on end by her two grown children, both in their mid-forties?

And yes, I do know that what goes around comes around. When I’m older, I’m sure my kids will torture me. But it’s so worth the karma.

The one thing that is still keeping me chuckling, a week later, is this note, scribbled on a Post-it in the handwriting of a 1st grader, that my brother left for our mom after we got in from South Beach late at night.

You have to know that my brother is one of those early technology adapters, and makes a living ferreting out the next great Internet idea. So between his iPhone, iPad, iWhatever and the low-tech alarm clock in the bedroom, you think he could have figured out some other way to be awoken in the morning.

My brother’s technologically advanced request for an early morning wake up call.

There’s no relationship like that of a brother and sister. I cherish it. And I love seeing it in my own kids, older brother and younger sister, who are a little over two years apart. They fight like hell, like my brother and I did, but then have their little moments, like the other day when they demonstrated their elaborate not-so-secret handshake. It warmed the cockles of my heart. And made me so happy that it didn’t go wrong and end up with one of them slapping the other one (by accident of course).

I hope my kids stay close when they’re older. And that my sibling relationship is a good example for them, minus the mother torture. I love my brother, hang spit and all. I can’t wait to see him again in two and a half months. I’ll bring along a pad of Post-its. Wonder what other original uses he’ll find for them. Here’s an idea: