For the second day in a row, I’m foregoing dinner because I want to write a blog post. If that isn’t proof that I’m making the effort to overcome my chronic procrastination I don’t know what is.
Anyways, yesterday I talked about my sisters, today I want to talk about one of my best friends ever, and one of the biggest male influences in my life. I know people have different kinds of relationships with their brothers, especially ones that are significantly older, but without a doubt, I’m sure that what I have with my brother is very special. There are parts of this post that I wrestled with myself on whether I should write them or not. and should I choose to do so, how would I say what I felt was important to say while still respecting my brother’s privacy. I do hope I have been able to achieve just that; do justice but still be private enough.
Gbenga (full name Oluwagbenga/Oluwagbemiga, which means “God has lifted me”) is six years older than me. There’s a anecdote of how when Bussie was born, a day after his third birthday, his first words when he saw her were “Take her back. I don’t want a sister. I want a boy. Take her back.” He did get his wish three years and a few months later when I was born.
It’s funny though that even though I heard that story told many times, as a little kid I remember feeling that my brother didn’t like me or couldn’t be bothered with me. As a young child I saw him as the mostly quiet, kind of introverted, seemingly aloof older brother who was at a level I couldn’t reach. Yup, I idolized him. I wanted to walk like him, talk like him, and enjoy the things he enjoyed. It’s because of him I got into drawing, video games, rap music, rock music, sports, acrobatics, cartoons and comics, sci-fi and fantasy. In pretty much all the major activities that shaped my life as a kid, he was the primary influence for my interest. Of course having a little brother who was enthusiastic about joining/helping you with all these things and also acted as your biggest fan couldn’t have hurt either. The more I interacted with him the more I realized I was wrong about him being indifferent about me.
Then the period came when I started working for my dad. The best thing about those years was bonding with my brother. Those were the years we went from simply being an older brother – younger brother pair, to being proper friends. Those were the years we went from being “Gbenga and Femi” to the “Sanusi brothers” (Sanusi is a pet name we call each other. We literally both have each other’s contacts saved as that on our phones). We talked about everything and anything. You see, while he’s the spitting image of my paternal grandfather, and seemingly got my mum’s body-type and age-defying genes, one thing he got from my dad was a penchant for intellectual exploration. Over the years my dad acquired TONS of books in so many different subject areas. While Tope was the queen of the classics, Gbenga was the king of the esoteric. Gbenga was the explorer who would go to the different parts of the house where these stashes were and dig through to discover more literary gems (and a couple trashy ones too) that had been forgotten about. In this regard, he was a mini-version of my father because his breadth of knowledge was pretty vast. So yeah, all the hours spent slaving away at work in our dad’s workshop were also times of great learning for me.
Now, going to all the same schools as my brother (and being there at the same time as him in two of them) had a pretty significant role to play in how popular I was in the early days, before I came into my own and my personality solidified. Even though he’s more on the quiet side (compared to me at least), he’s not afraid to be in the spotlight. In secondary school he was an athlete, a performer, and evenwon the “Mr. Macho” title (even though he’s only 5’6.5″). In my first year in secondary school, I probably knew more people than any other first year student; I was decently popular in my year, I knew more people than Bussie did in her year, and then there were my brother’s friends and classmates who saw me as “Sawyerr Jr.”. By the time we were in university, because we were more like close friends than brothers with a six-year age difference, I could interact with his friends on a man-to-man level. He knew most of my closest friends, although I tried not to let him know too many of them, especially my female friends; at some point you kinda get tired of hearing “Man, look at your brother, what happened to you?”, especially when he’s bald and you have hair (yes folks, I was not always bald).
Our brotherhood as adults wasn’t always amazing though. The university years had a pretty dark period in our relationship, and in his relationship with the rest of our family. Just before I became a freshman, he started going through some personal struggles and made a decision to take a path that caused some serious tension at home. What he did wasn’t wrong objectively speaking, but the way he did it and the circumstances surrounding everything just had all of us feeling some type of way. It hit each of us hard in different ways, and affected our relationships with each other negatively as well. But when he found his way back home, he was ultimately a better person because of the lessons he learned. The wounds healed (took a while especially with him and my dad), the bridges were mended, and the family bonds became stronger.
One day, I hope Sanusi gets to write his story. His life has been a pretty intriguing one. And now that in addition to being my brother and friend, he’s also a husband and a father, it only promises to be more interesting.
So today, I’m grateful for one of the men who made me the man I am now. Without his influence in my life, I would be a WAAAAY more annoying and terrible person than I have a tendency to be. Today, I’m thankful for Oluwagbenga “Sanusi” Sawyerr; my big brother.