There’s too much to write about my younger brother Ray. At one point I had actually started to write a memoir about Ray, but there was so much material, I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.
Although I grew up on stage as “the actor” and kind of graduated into focusing more on comedy, Ray is actually the funny one. My family has a lot of funny people in it, but I have to admit, Ray is the funniest. And this used to frustrate me, because he’s sneaky about who he shows his funny to. You don’t meet him and walk away saying, “That guy’s hilarious.” His humor is on some kind of time-release set-up.
When Ray first meets someone he’s somewhat quiet and reserved. I’m the same way. I can’t explain what it is for Ray, but for me, I have to feel someone out and get comfortable around them before I show them what a dork I am.
I used to get so frustrated when Sunday School teachers and teachers at school would tell me what a nice, well-behaved boy Ray was. I wanted to scream, “No he’s not! That’s not the real Ray! At home he’s goofy and silly and has a really weird dance he does all the time and plays jokes and has funny voices!” I wanted to tell them that, but I never did. I always just smiled and nodded.
One of my favorite “Ray” stories took place at church. He must have been around five or six. We grew up in a pretty small town, and everyone pretty much knew that my dad (and his brothers) were all involved in boxing and did really well. There was this guy at church, he was an Elder and he kind of reminded me of Seinfeld‘s Newman. His name was Mike. He was always teasing Ray, I don’t know why. Ray was six, and this guy was in his thirties. Ok…thinking back now, maybe he wasn’t in his thirties. But he was definitely An Adult. He would walk up to Ray and say things like “Ohhhhhh look at the bog tough boxer guy, why don’t you hit me, you’re sooooo strong, look at you, oooooooh, big boxing champ, try to knock me out.”
Ray didn’t know what to do or say or how to react. He would just kind of look at the guy and try to walk away, and Mike would follow Ray down the hall taunting him. Ray knew he wasn’t supposed to hit or sass The Adults, so he would just take it. I only saw this happen once or twice, but apparently it happened more than that. Week after week this guy would torture Ray, yelling at him, “Ohhhhhh, tough guy, walking away, doesn’t want to try to hit me, oooooooh big boxing champ.”
After a bit, it somehow came to Dad’s attention that this was going on and he asked Ray about it. When Ray told him what had been happening, Dad got angry. “Ray,” he told him, “The next time he tells you to hit him, you hit him. That’ll shut him up.”
Cut to: Church, the following week.
Ray was going from Sunday School to the main sanctuary and Mike caught up with him. “Hey, look, there goes the big tough boxer guy.” Ray stopped and Mike waddled up to him, and they just stood in the hall looking at each other.
“Big tough guy,” Mike continued, “Try to hit me, you think you’re so tough, why don’t you show me who–”
Mike was cut off by Ray punching him in the balls as hard as he could.
Mike got all red in his face and grabbed Ray by the arm and dragged him down the hall to find Dad. When Mike finally did, his face was even redder and he began to yell. “Your son just hit me! He punched me!”
Dad has this amazing thing where, when he’s angry, he gets really super calm. He just looked at Mike all kung fu zen-like, and said, “Well, did you tell him to hit you?”
“Yes, but–” Mike started to shout, and Dad cut him off with more calm, quiet talking.
“Well if you told him to hit you, and he hit you, then what’s the problem? If you told me to hit you, I’d punch you right in the face.”
I think it was at that point Mike just froze and realized he was about to get punched in the face. In church.
“Now take your hands off my son.”
Mike did, and he shuffled down the hall in a fit of sweaty rage.
And here’s a fun fact that just hit me: The first four letters of Mike’s last name are F-A-I-L. For real, I’m not making that up.
And that, dear friends, is the story of how Ray punched an elder at church “where it counts” and didn’t get in trouble for it.