First published in The Emporia Gazette April 12, 2005



by Cheryl Unruh

"How old were you when you first used 'idiom' without prompting?" my brother asked in an e-mail.

To explain one of his comments, Leon's 8-year-old son had used the word idiom.

"Your children scare me," I replied. "They're smarter than I am."

"You're scared?" he wrote, "How do you think I feel, knowing that there are three smarter people living under my roof, and they're all younger than I am?"

That last sentence was a little unsettling. Leon was referring to family, his wife and two sons, but still, I felt the world crumble a bit -- one of my lifelong beliefs was in jeopardy.

An unwavering fact in my life is that my big brother is the most intelligent person on the planet.

Leon is two years older than I am. When we were young, it was obvious that he knew everything.

He could explain barometric pressure and the formation of clouds. He showed me how to cast a fishing line and how to do a lay-up on the basketball court.

My brother read constantly, not just Mad Magazine, but also history and political science. He always knew that he would become a journalist.

Leon was in the fifth grade when he started his own weekly newspaper: The Pawnee Rock Informer. He acquired a hectograph from Rev. Peters, the Mennonite minister, who had used it to print church bulletins.

For three years, Leon reported city and school news in The Informer and delivered his newspaper to subscribers.

A good student, Leon represented Pawnee County one year in the state spelling bee and he was a National Merit Finalist.

I idolized my brother. But we didn't always play well together.

He often made me angry. Some days I hated him.

During childhood, we fought with words and sometimes fists. Brighter and stronger, Leon won every battle.

I don't know whether "ipit dipit" was his coined phrase or mine. When we were little kids, ipit dipit was the worst insult that we could fling without a scolding from Mom.

I still call him that occasionally, but now, of course, it's impossible to put any fury into those words.

My brother was everything I wanted to be. Because he was in 4-H, I couldn't wait to join the club. He played a coronet in band, so I took up the coronet as well.

Leon taught himself photography. At high school ballgames, he stood behind the basketball goal or at the 30-yard-line with the camera's viewfinder to his eye.

When my brother graduated, I took over his post on the football field sidelines and I leaned against the gymnasium wall, his heavy old Ricoh camera hanging around my neck.

He worked for The Tiller and Toiler newspaper in Larned. So did I. He went to The University of Kansas; I joined him a few years later.

About 10 years ago, before he had those sons that now adore him, Leon enlarged a photograph showing the two of us as youngsters.

In the photo, my brother and I, at ages 5 and 3, are wearing Sunday clothes, standing in our front yard. Elm trees are leafed out and roses grow along the white picket fence. The sun shines on our hair.

A full head taller than me, Leon's hand rests on my shoulder. My fingers reach up and grab that hand. His eyes and mouth are wide and happy and I am beaming at him as if he is a god.

When Leon gave me the photograph, he suggested that it captured the last time that anyone had looked up at him with such complete admiration.

His comment surprised me.

How could he have not seen that during my entire life I had admired him, emulated him, worshiped him every single step of the way?

What an ipit dipit!

Copyright 2005 by Cheryl Unruh


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All Content Copyright 2004-2005 by Cheryl Unruh
Text by Cheryl Unruh | Web Design: Dave Leiker
Photography by Cheryl Unruh & Dave Leiker