When we were kids, I hated my brother.
I'm told that's a normal sentiment between siblings. But I really, really hated him.
My brother is only one year and 18 days younger than me, so we were destined to clash. He had a mean temper, I was overly sensitive, and we learned very quickly what buttons to push.
(In fact, the first one I remember him pushing is the reset button on the NES just as my cousin and I were about to beat The Legend of Zelda for the first time ever. In that moment, I totally sympathized with Cain about the whole Abel thing.)
We somewhat jokingly but in all seriousness refer to our mother as Saint Aurora. For the years my brother and I spent getting into verbal and physical fisticuffs, she not only endured and pacified us, but she only got two or three gray hairs in the process. No small miracle.
Perhaps more importantly, she gave us perspective in many ways. Whenever I would declare a nasty curse against my brother, she would always counter with, "You don't have to like him, but you can still love him. He's your family."
My mom knows a lot about family: she was was born and raised in the Philippines where she was one of six siblings and one of 27 first cousins. She, along with virtually all of her extended family, immigrated to Ohio in the '70s to join a budding Filipino community that quickly became her extra-extended family.
I grew up surrounded by that family. And it was so much fun. Weekly family dinners consisted of no fewer than 15 people, 30 if someone was visiting from out of town. If I wasn't sure who an adult was, it was always a safe bet to call them "auntie" or "uncle." And I dare anyone to defeat my cousins and me in quoting any movie made between 1997-2003. (Warning: it can't be done.)
Filipinos certainly don't hold a monopoly on close, extended families, but I remember my friends always being surprised at how close I was with mine. Looking at it now, I realize it's a unique kind of love that we share. We're not perfect. We don't always get along or agree. But, as a family, we are always there for one another. Titles like second cousin or third uncle four times removed don't exist. Family is family.
It took time for me to learn that. It was in simple moments like when we would all watch a movie together. Or in grander gestures like when my uncle passed away unexpectedly, so my entire extended family went to my aunt's house for nine days of prayers and comforting, a Filipino tradition. I learned a lot about unconditional love from my family.
Over time, my mother's words resonated with me more and more. My pool of patience deepened. My brother's temper dampened. It dawned on us that we had more in common than we realized. We still disagree and argue from time to time, but with less vitriol, more empathy.
I moved to Bend last year, leaving most of my family back in Ohio. It was a tough decision, but I needed a change in pace. And I know they'll always be there when I need them.
I live here with my brother and my awesome sister-in-law now. I'll admit, I missed hanging out with my little brother.
I kind of sort of might even love the guy now.