Monday, April 15, 2019

#74 - My brother John Wick - Growing up with a future hitman

When the third movie in the "John Wick" series is released next month, I will be forced, once again, to go through the gut wrenching process of reliving my early years as the younger brother of a future hit man. It's something we don't talk much about these days. As a family we try to let it live in the past. Ever since the first movie came out, though, these difficult memories have been impossible to avoid.

Let's say I make a reservation at a restaurant and give my full name - Peter Wick - inevitably I get the joking response, "Oh, any relation to John?"

"Yes," I say, surprising just about everyone who asks. "He's my brother, a year older than me. Thanks for reminding me of all the almost-buried memories, the childhood trauma, the lingering scars that simply will not fade."

I remember being 5 years old. John was 6. We were both building elaborate towers out of Legos. John was better than me at most things, but somehow I was pretty damn good with Legos. My tower was more intresting, taller, more creative. When our mom casually walked by and commented on my Lego tower, rather than John's, he lost it. Not only did he smash my Lego tower, he took it apart piece by piece, put all of my Lego pieces in a metal briefcase, buried them in the back yard, and covered the whole thing with cement. Seriously, that's where the whole cement idea got started; MY LEGOS!

Of course being John Wick's brother sometimes had its benefits.

One day in first grade some 4th-grade bullies were giving me a hard time. I was struggling to hold my own, trying to counter their pushing and shoving with witty comebacks. John - himself only a second grader -  decided to get involved. He had only been taking martial arts classes for a few weeks, but he had learned enough. A dozen 4th graders were nothing. He took them all on by himself. It was an impressive display. Ten minutes later the playground was littered with the bodies of a dozen bloody, moaning, defeated 4th graders.

Actions have consequences, though. The 4th graders put a bounty on John's head; land a punch on John Wick, and you get a year's supply of Super-stuffed Oreos.

When the 5th graders heard about the bounty, John's life was endangered. A pack of big tough 5th graders spread out across the school grounds like a massive net, set to ensnare John. Desparate, John snuck down into the school janitor's underground private residence. The janitor - we called him Snuckerman - decided to help John escape, and let him out into the narrow, dark, winding sewer that snaked underground through the whole city.

That was the last time we saw John Wick. My brother never returned. For years we did not know whether he made it out of the city alive. I mean, how does a 2nd grader sneak out of a city and survive? How does he manage to continue growing up?

My mother was heart-broken.

It took me years to get over the empty feeling in my stomach.

When the first movie of the franchise came out several years ago, it was like a bomb blowing up right in the middle of my family. It couldn't be him, could it? Yes, it turns out it was, it was my brother, John Wick, right there in the big screen. It was eerie how he had changed, but also not changed at all.

The memories came pouring back too fast to process them all. Maybe someday I'll tell more. This is therapeutic, after all. Writing it down helps process what we have been through.

So, when you go out for a night's entertainment next month, enjoying the drama of another John Wick movie, just remember that Wick has a family that misses him.

John, if you're out there, it would be nice to meet again, to sit down and talk. Is it too late to tell you that your Lego tower was pretty damn good?
-Peter Wick
April 15, 2019