Bonnie was pretty surprised the first time she heard my siblings and I joking about how funny and crazy our parents are. As an only child, Bonnie never had anyone who knew her parents like she did, so she never had anyone to compare notes with. Being the youngest of nine children, I have four older brothers and four older sisters who know exactly what I’m talking about when I throw out one of my parents’ famous catch phrases or make reference to one of their iconic characteristics.
In a world as diverse as the colors of a rainbow, it is your siblings who understand best who you are and where you come from. It is your siblings who were there during your most formative years, the good times and the bad. Whether you grew up in a family that looked like it was out of a Norman Rockwell painting or you came from a broken home mediated by social workers, it is your siblings who can relate to your experiences better than anyone.
Fortunately for me, my family was more Rockwell painting and my siblings are the best a guy could ask for. While some folks have older siblings that would beat them up or exclude them, my siblings always took care of me and always included me. As I am six years younger than my closest sibling and twenty-two years younger than the oldest, beating me up wouldn’t have been much of a challenge and neither would have been trying to exclude me. Even so, they never took the easy route. Instead, they cared for me, sometimes like I was their child, but most of the time like I was their best friend. And you know what happened? I grew up idolizing them and over time, I learned how to act like the best friend that they treated me as.
The question is: “Why were they so good to me?”
I’ve known many people who didn’t get along with their siblings, whose siblings were bullies or even worse, whose siblings didn’t really have any interest in them at all. Why did their siblings treat them poorly? I don’t know. Perhaps it was because their parents weren’t very loving to them or because of some other external force. Either way, I think that is the wrong question to focus on. Rather than investigate the source of the negative environment, I’d prefer to look for the source of the positive… Why were they so good to me?
I don’t know for sure and I doubt that they knew then or perhaps don’t even know now, but I can speculate. Perhaps they understood what it was like to not be treated like a best friend by their classmates, so they intentionally went the other way. Perhaps they experienced being taken care of and treated well by one of our older cousins, so they decided to pass it along. Or perhaps they simply had the light of God inside them, such that they inherently knew that treating me well was the right and good thing to do. I can’t say for sure what it was that motivated them to take me under their wings and care for me, but the important part is that they did, and it has made all the difference in my life. From the skills they taught me, to the lessons I learned from their mistakes, I cherish all that I learned from each of them and it is both my honor and pleasure to follow their lead and care well for others always.
Here are just a few of the lessons that I learned from each of them:
How to Be a Good Big Brother – Noel
My older brother, Noel, is ten years older than me, and we shared a bedroom for most of my childhood. Sometimes we had the luxury of having bunk beds and other times we were made to share a full-sized bed. This was never a problem for me, as I was just a little kid, but I can’t imagine being a teenage boy having to share your space with your little brother. Especially when I was five or six (making him fifteen or so) and my Mom would throw me in the shower with him. I get that there were eleven people living in a one-bathroom house, but talk about zero privacy!
Despite the constant cramping of his style, I never heard him say one bad thing about me. Maybe he complained about me when I wasn’t around, but as far as I knew, he was my best friend. To the extent that whenever he and his actual best friends were hanging out, he would let me hang out too.
When he graduated high school and went off to college at Stanford University, I was only eight years old and it was a pretty lonely time for me. Even so, I had, and still have, a tremendous amount of great memories from my time as a little kid with him, though none of these memories are as clear as the one about the card game and the belt.
I was about five years old and I was playing in our bedroom when Noel came in. He had just gotten home from school late (as he had after school activities like the school newspaper) and my Mom was on his case. As soon as he walked in, I hit him up about playing with me.
“You ready to play some Go Fish? You promised you would!”
“You’re right, I did say that didn’t I? Let’s make it quick because Mom’s after me about washing the dishes again.”
Just as I started to deal the cards, my Mom busts open the door with a belt in her hand and fire in her eyes.
“I thought I told you to go wash the dishes and you’re up here playing cards!” she yelled as she swung the belt at my brother.
We both jumped up off the floor and I cried as any five-year- old would at the sight. But not my brother Noel. Though he tried to dodge and block, my Mom was no rookie, so he took a good share of licks before she stormed out and closed the door.
At this point, my brother could have gone in any number of different directions and all of them would have been understandable. What he decided to do next changed my perspective forever of what it looks like to be a good big brother, to the extent that my eyes are currently welled up with tears. As he tried to rub the welts on his arm and back that the belt had left, he returned to the center of the room and sat down with me.
“C’mon, man. Hurry up and deal so I can go wash the dishes.”
And he played a game of Go Fish with me, just as he had promised.
I can only hope to be as good of a friend on my best day as he was to me in that moment.
How to Fish & Drink Beer – Antonio
My brother, Antonio, is fifteen years older than me and it is with him whom I’ve spent the most quality time “being brothers” with. Though some of those times felt more like a parent-child relationship, especially when I was still a preteen, things definitely changed as I got older.
If not for Tone (as I affectionately refer to him), I wouldn’t have experienced near as many great things as I have. He took me to my first Utah Jazz game on Opening Night of the new stadium. He took me to my first two concerts (Phil Collins, Billy Joel) with him and his friends. He bought us the first-generation Nintendo because there was no chance my parents would ever get us one and he would treat me to fast food and movie rentals almost every Sunday afternoon, so long as I would go pick it up. “I buy, you fly” he would always say.
I’ll never forget the movies we watched together over and over again, to the point that we would laugh at the same parts and recite the same lines in unison. Like when Chris O’Donnell calls Al Pacino a “miserable, blind, mother-effer” in Scent of a Woman or when Will Smith starts kicking the alien he’s dragging in his parachute in Independence Day. Or when Cruz and El Gallo Negro have their heart-to-heart talk in front of the mural at the end of Blood In Blood Out, or when Brad Pitt invents shadow casting in A River Runs Through It.
“Just three more years and I’ll be able to think like a fish.” When it comes to A River Runs Through It, I think Tone liked that movie primarily because it was about fishing and he loves to fish, but I liked it because it was about brotherhood. Both were experiences he worked diligently to pass on to me.
I was about nine years old the first time Tone took me fishing with him and our cousins. Sometimes we would fish the rivers and sometimes we would fish off the shore at the reservoirs. Sometimes we would catch fish and sometimes we would get skunked. Either way, Tone and my cousins always at least caught a buzz. These hours with my brother Tone taught me at a very young age the meaning of the cliché “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”
Come to think of it, “cousins” and “beer” were always a constant, regardless of where we were hanging out or what we were doing. Whether we were fishing, playing racquetball, volleyball, basketball, golf, or poker; my cousins were always around, and they were always drinking beer.
Side note: One day, years later when I was of legal drinking age and we were planning to play nine holes of golf with my cousins, I asked if we were going to stop by the bar afterwards. Tone responded:
“Haven’t you figured it out yet? We don’t actually go places and do things… We just go to the bar and drink beer. We just might happen to stop and do something on our way there, like golf or fish or play racquetball.”
What I cherished most about each of these activities was not necessarily the activities themselves, but the fact that I was even privileged enough to be included at all. Being fifteen years younger than Tone, when he was already a handful of years younger than my cousins, it would have been easy for them to relegate me to the kids table. But they didn’t. Though I am the absolute youngest of all sixty-two of my first-cousins and thus the same age as many of my cousins’ children, they treated me like a brother and not a son/nephew. Even though I was just a kid compared to them, I always got to hang with the grown-ups, because Tone vouched for me.
Being in Junior High and getting to sit at the poker table with all of the twenty, thirty, and forty-something-year-old men was a true privilege. Not only did I get to learn the game, but I got to hear the stories and the jokes that most guys my age weren’t allowed to be around for. From the silly tales of their younger days to serious conversations about life, these times with the fellas were (and still are) invaluable to me. Whether we were playing cards or building a deck, it was from these men that I learned how to hang out with other men. It was here that I learned how to just relax and enjoy each other’s company. It was here that I learned about being part of a brotherhood and it was because Tone brought me along that I was ever able to experience it.
I often say that “brotherhood” is my superpower. Well, I learned it from watching him.
How to Hike and Give It Away – Efren
My brother, Efren, is sixteen years older than me, so by the time I was old enough to remember, he had already joined the Army and moved to Alaska. Even so, my parents had chosen him to be my Godfather at baptism, so every time he came home on leave, he did his absolute best to make up for lost time. This usually meant buying me an expensive toy that my parents would never spring for or letting me ride with him in his new truck to church.
Of all those early memories, nothing was as impactful as the morning he took me and my nephew Meissa hiking up Adam’s Canyon. At the time, I was seven years old and Meissa was only four, but that didn’t stop my brother from taking us to the waterfall and then all the way up a dangerous rock wash. In hindsight, having made that same exact hike at least forty times since then, taking us up the rock wash that day was an incredibly irresponsible thing to do. The hike to the waterfall was perfectly safe, but I just look at the rock wash now and it makes me nervous. Would you expect anything less from an arctic soldier that had just spent two years training in the Yukon? Regardless of the danger, it was in that initial hike where I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains, hiking, and specifically the waterfall in Adam’s Canyon.
Since that time, I’ve taken countless people on that exact same hike, I spent most of my high school days in that canyon, and I’ve even taken my own wife and kids on that hike and hope to do so for years to come. The gift that my brother gave me that day truly has lasted a lifetime and is a gift that keeps on giving. More than any of the toys he bought me, it was the experience of climbing up a mountain just because it was there, that I have cherished all these years.
As wonderful as our relationship was when I was a little kid, it hasn’t always been so smooth. When I was in my twenties, there was a good span of time that I remember us not getting along very well at all. At the time, I simply chalked it up to the fact that I was young, and he was always trying to teach me stuff that I didn’t ask him to teach me about, like Star Trek, combustion engines, or classic books. But the worst was when he would try to teach me about golf, usually right in the middle of my back swing.
Over the years, there have been a couple of times that I have made mention of my annoyance with my brother and each time I have received the exact same response, regardless of who I was speaking to:
“You guys don’t get along! Because he’s annoying?!?! You’re exactly like him!!! You two are exactly the same!”
Talk about a tough pill to swallow. As I analyzed all of the things about my brother that rubbed me the wrong way, what I found was that they were the same things that I didn’t like about myself and that I was simply projecting on to him. Except for the golf thing. That was just him. Through time, I learned to soften some of my rough edges as did he and we ended up being really wonderful friends.
Ironically, of all the things he tried to teach me over the years, the greatest lesson I learned from him was something I don’t think he ever intended to show me. Time and time again, I watched my brother as he selflessly gave away any and every material possession that he could.
“Hey Ef, that’s a nice watch!”
“You like it? Here, take it. It will look great on you!”
Just like that, he would give it away. No matter what it was, from his headphones to his hamburger, he places little to no value, sentimental or otherwise, on any material possession. Many who would see this might consider it wasteful or irresponsible, but as I’ve watched him operate in this selfless manner year after year, the one thing I’ve never seen him do is go without.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite! As far as I have observed, the harder and faster he tries to rid himself of his material possessions, it’s as though more and more material provision just falls from the sky. This is the perfect illustration of my understanding of God and His provision. So long as our hands are full and we’re holding tightly to whatever we have, it doesn’t make sense for God to give us any more – our hands are full! It isn’t until we use what we have or give it away that our hands can be free to receive again. Furthermore, I believe when God likes what we are doing with what He gives us, He’s inclined to give us even more.
I’ve witnessed it, first hand, with my brother. To the extent that when I moved back to Utah five years ago, he moved out of his house and into an apartment so that my family could move in.
How many people can say that their brother gave them a house? I can.
How to Travel – Joe
My brother, Joe, is twenty years older than me, so by the time I was old enough to remember, he was already out of the Marines and working in Corporate America. As a young child, I remember seeing Joe as very professional and polished. He wore a suit to work, had a nice apartment, and drove a nice car, which are all things I aspired to do as I grew older.
More than his corporate success, I admired my oldest brother’s desire and ability to travel. When I was about ten years old, he left his retail sales job and started working for American Airlines. This shift meant that he had unlimited flight benefits for himself and enough free passes that our family no longer had to drive to Mexico anymore! Though my parents still had very little extra money at the time, because of my brother’s new job we were able to fly first class on our vacations.
At first, the vacations were simply our annual trips to visit our family in Mexico, but as time progressed, we started vacationing in San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, in huge part because of Joe’s facilitation.
One of my favorite trips that Joe put together was an impromptu one. My brother Efren had to drive down to Phoenix for work and Joe got it in his head that it could be a great weekend road trip. Being the inclusive big brother that he has always been to me, he talked my Mom into letting me ride with him and Efren to Phoenix, stopping at the Grand Canyon on the way, and then he would fly me back to Utah and he would fly home to Dallas. I was only fifteen at the time, so this would have been a pretty far-fetched pitch for any parent to agree to. But being that he was the oldest son and thirty-five years old at the time, my Mom said ok.
What made this trip even more crazy was that I didn’t know anything about it until I got home from hanging out with my friends on what I thought was a regular Friday night. It was about 11 PM when I walked in the house and Joe instructed me to pack a weekend bag. An hour later, were on the road and nine hours after that we were standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Though tired from the drive, we spent that Saturday hiking around the rim, taking pictures that would never do the actual landscape any justice, and laughing at each other’s jokes. We ended the day with happy hour, sitting on the patio of the El Tovar Hotel that overlooks the South Rim. Talk about a breathtaking setting! The sun was about to set and we were enjoying the good life.
When my brothers first round of beers came, Joe handed me his glass and told me to take drink. Growing up, after a long day of work in the farm fields, my Dad would always let us have a swig of his beer because, “nothing quenches your thirst like an ice-cold beer.” At first, I declined, not wanting to get in trouble with the restaurant, but after some more encouragement from Joe, I took a great big drink.
Not more than two seconds after I set the glass back on the table, the waitress was standing in front of me, demanding to see my ID.
“What’s the problem, he’s twenty-one.” Joe informed the waitress.
“I need to see his ID now.” she responded.
“He left it in the truck.” Joe told her. “We’ll run out and grab it in a minute.”
“If I see him drinking again, I’m going to have to ask you guys to leave.” she informed us.
“Alright, alright, alright.” Joe responded as he confidently waved her off.
That day, I added “I left it in the truck, I’ll run out and grab it in a minute” to my library of catchphrases and filed it under “Random Excuses to Get Someone Off Your Back.”
Overall, the trip was amazing. Anyone who has been to the Grand Canyon understands that the grandeur of this experience is a priceless gift, the memory of which will literally last a lifetime. So impactful was this trip that I’ve introduced a few friends to the Grand Canyon and each time, while they’re gazing over the edge, I’m watching them as that awestruck expression washes over their faces. Likewise, I am eager to share this experience with my children once they get a little bit older, just as my brother Joe did with me.
Over twenty-five years, Joe has served as our family’s unofficial travel agent and has orchestrated countless family get- togethers and reunions. In fact, more than helping me buy my first car, create a monthly budget, or rent and furnish my first post-college apartment, the greatest lesson I have learned from my brother Joe is the importance of reaching out to even our distant cousins and facilitating gatherings to ensure that both our immediate and extended family remain close for generations to come.
How to Do You – Meissa
On an almost daily basis, I utter the contradictory phrases “I’m the youngest of nine children” and “my little brother.”
You see, my nephew Meissa is only three years younger than me. He is my oldest sister Irma’s son and she is twenty-two years older than I am. As such, though I am officially his uncle, he’s always been a brother to me.
From his birth to his fourth birthday, we spent most of our time together, living in the same house for much of it. But when he was four, he and my sister moved to Washington State and then later on to Southern California, thus limiting our interactions to summer vacations and Christmas breaks. Even so, we made the most of these vacations, primarily playing video games and basketball together.
It wasn’t until my senior year of college that we were finally reunited when he entered Santa Clara University as freshmen. From a distance, it might appear that he was “following in my footsteps” by attending the same college, choosing to live in the same dorm, declaring the same major, and pledging for the same fraternity as I had, but nothing could be further from the truth. Though you’d think it would be of benefit to have an older sibling pave the way, I’m pretty positive that wasn’t the case for Meissa, as much as I wish it would have been. No, unfortunately for him, my reputation of being a loud, hard-driving prick preceded me and he was nothing like that.
While I was an insecure jerk who spent my time seeking everyone’s approval, Meissa carries a quiet confidence and really couldn’t care less what people think of him. I was concerned about what everyone else was doing and how I should be doing it bigger and better, but he was busy doing his own thing at his own pace, with no concerns for anyone else’s business. When I was worried about getting the right internship so I could land the right job after graduation, he was happy working an on- campus job.
This is not to say that he wasn’t successful. On the contrary, he had more friends, more fun, and more time to relax than I ever did! Right out of college, he landed a sweet gig at Apple (despite his lack of internships) and had a nicer car and nicer apartment than I ever had.
When the time came for our quarter-life crisis sabbaticals from corporate, even they looked completely different. Where I took two years off and traveled around the world non-stop in an effort to get as much done as I possibly could, he took off for seven years, traveling sporadically, slowly working his way through each day at his own pace, doing exactly what he wanted to do. In the end, we both ended up where we wanted to be: me in the non-profit sector and him at an educational tech startup.
What I learned from Meissa is that it’s ok (and even advantageous at times) to march to the beat of your own drum. Whether or not anybody approves of the beat, you can do your own thing, go your own way, and maybe or maybe not end up at the same place as everyone else. As long as you’re good with the destination, that is all that matters.
Meissa inadvertently taught me the world is not binary and there can be more than one way to solve a problem or approach a situation. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else or even care if they know you exist. We each have our own lives to live and so long as you’re not hurting anyone else, we should each have the quiet confidence to use this privilege… a privilege that I diligently work on executing daily.
How to Code and Kick Ass – Araseli
My sister, Araseli (Ara), is twelve years older than me, which means she was in her early teens when my Mom made it one of her daily responsibilities to bathe me as a toddler. For most young teenagers, I think that caring for and bathing a toddler would probably seem like a pretty big deal, but this was just one of her many chores. Additionally, she had the responsibilities of getting good grades, working in the fields after school and on weekends, cleaning, and helping my Mom make tortillas every day. Surprisingly, there are only a couple of stories about her dropping me or allowing me to roll off of a changing table.
The truth is, my sister Araseli is a certified badass. Whether she’s at a spa day with the girls or sitting at a poker table with the fellas, there is nowhere she doesn’t belong and nothing she can’t do.
When I was fourteen years old and doing research for my first desktop computer, it was Ara who taught me all about processor speed, hard drive space, and random access memory. As a Software Developer with a degree in Computer Science, her ability to succeed in the “young white male” monoculture that the tech industry is plagued with is truly inspiring, but not surprising in the least. Her positive attitude and willingness to speak truth to power has always made her a force to be reckoned with. Whether she was running a triathlon, battling in a conference room, or arguing her point at a backyard BBQ, betting on Ara is always a safe bet.
Though her willingness to offer her opinion might be what she is known best for, her listening skills are what I remember the most. When my first wife told me that she had decided to file for divorce, Ara was the very first person that I called. Sitting on the floor of my walk-in closet in my luxury apartment, I was crying my eyes out and she listened. She offered her condolences and words of encouragement, but for the most part, she just listened.
Over the years, Ara and I have continually grown closer. On the surface, we have a lot in common. We’re both outspoken, driven, competitive, and very extroverted. We share common interests in technology, travel, spirituality, and fitness. Beyond all of these commonalities, I believe that our greatest connection is that we have both worked tirelessly to continue growing and evolving.
For years, Ara has considered herself a “work in progress”, doing her best to lessen her flaws and emphasize the goodness that she knows to be inside of her. This practice of allowing yourself to be imperfect and yet still be worthy of belonging is something that I am just now working to implement in my own journey. The idea that you can make mistakes and simply apologize and move on, without having to dwell on them forever, is game changing. Above all the other things I have learned from her, I believe this is the most important practice.
How to Be Sweet – Hilda
My sister, Hilda, is six years older than me and my closest sibling in age. Since we are much closer in age than the rest of my brothers and sisters, I feel like I actually grew up with Hilda being a sibling and partner-in-crime as opposed to in a guardian- like role that the rest of my siblings played.
When she was in high school, she trusted me enough to have me sleep in her bed while she snuck out the window to hang out with her friends after hours. Not only did I cover for her, I was the one who showed her how to shimmy across the ledge and use the water meter as a step ladder to get down from her second story window. In exchange for my silence, she used to let me hang out with her and her friends on Friday nights. Technically, my Mom required her to take me along as a chaperone, but she never made me feel like a drag. Instead, she carried on the same way she would have if I wasn’t there. She’d tell Mom we were going to the high school football game and then we’d go pick up her friends and drive around town, stopping to get fast food, and talk to boys whenever possible.
Hilda has always been an awesome big sister. I only recall us getting into one big physical fight that resulted from my snitching on her for getting a bad grade. Aside from that, we’ve pretty much always stuck together as siblings, though there were still plenty of times when she had to play the guardian role.
On my first day of kindergarten, while all of the other kids had their (oh so young) parents dropping them off in the classroom, showing them to their seats, and snapping photographs all along the way, it was Hilda who quickly dropped me off on her way to her sixth grade classroom down the hall. Ironically, it was also Hilda who picked me up from the airport, took me to lunch, and then helped me move the boxes I had mailed her into my college dorm room at the beginning of my freshman year.
As I think back over the years in search of some huge, dramatic story about Hilda, I can’t really remember any. Primarily because that’s just not Hilda’s style. As opposed to over the top and dramatic, every one of my recollections is of her being sweet and supportive. And giggling. Not only does she giggle a lot, but I believe that she truly enjoys giggling. Having a sweet and supportive sister might not seem out of the ordinary to some people, but in my family, it has always been far more advantageous to be loud, hard-charging, and aggressive, which makes me cherish her demeanor that much more.
This is not to confuse her kindness with weakness. Hilda is anything but weak. She has a master’s degree in Education and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford. She fought her way through divorce and came out the other side un-jaded. While she might not bully others with harsh words or a forceful demeanor, she is more than capable of standing up for herself and confidently walking away from any situation where she isn’t being treated with the love and respect that she incessantly extends to everyone else.
Through the years, Hilda has shown me that though we may live in an insensitive world, that doesn’t mean we have to be cruel in return. On the contrary, even when she is tired of your nonsense, she always finds a way to be confidently kind.
How to Be Steady – Corina
My sister, Corina, is eighteen years older than me, so by the time I was old enough to remember, she had already graduated college and moved out of the house. She had a good job, a cool apartment, a nice car, and a fancy boyfriend. As such, my first impression of Coco was that she was a jet-setter with a plan and she didn’t have to ask anyone for permission.
Like my brother Efren, my Mom chose Coco to be my Godmother at baptism. Unlike Efren, Coco and I have pretty much always been close, primarily because she is so ridiculously easy to get along with. Though she has the same hard-charging work ethic that my parents instilled in all of my siblings, she carries her confidence differently. As though she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
Over the years, visiting Coco has always been a favorite destination. When she lived in Dallas, she and her husband would take us water skiing on the lake. When they moved to South Florida, my friends and I would spend our Spring Break hanging by their pool. Then, when they moved to Denver, our beach vacations turned into Rocky Mountain hiking adventures.
With each move, their houses grew nicer and their neighborhoods grew more exclusive. But somehow, she never seemed to change. While I would have become obsessed with the material possessions and the exotic vacations their lifestyle afforded them, she never did. On the contrary, she became more kind, more compassionate, and more humble as their material wealth grew.
As a very young child, Coco lost the sight in her left eye. For most people, losing an eye would be more than enough of an excuse to pass on some of life’s more challenging activities. But not Coco. Even with her limited depth perception and peripheral vision, she is an excellent snow and water skier, a legit mountain biker (with the scars to prove it), and an experienced scuba diver. Additionally, she has traveled to more countries and seen more of the world than I ever will.
Throughout her life, Coco has had her share of trials and challenges. But through them all, she has always remained incredibly consistent. Never too high and never too low, she is the steady foundation that can weather any storm. With tremendous faith and a resolve capable of moving mountains, she has always been an amazing example of what it looks like to be in the moment and trust God for the future.
How to Be Faithful – Irma
My sister, Irma, is twenty-two years older than me and thus my oldest sibling. Even though we are so far apart in age, I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of my childhood with Irma since her son Meissa and I grew up together. This meant that though Irma was my sister, I often times viewed her as more of a parent.
We are so far apart in age that I always had way more in common with her son than I did with her. Logistically, we grew up in completely different generations. She was a child of the sixties, and I grew up in the eighties. I grew up with all of the advantages of being the youngest, while Irma had to shoulder the weight of being the oldest and paving the way. To this day, I have yet to fully understand how incredibly difficult this must have been.
Since growing up in white, Mormon, Utah was tough for me, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like twenty-two years earlier. Everything I thought was a challenge must have been five-times worse. From the lack of finances and the language barrier, to living in a pre-civil rights era, this had to have been crazy. Yet, she thrived. Regardless how great the obstacles were, she overcame them. From being the first of my siblings to get a college degree (and later a master’s degree) to raising the most wonderful man as a single parent, Irma is nothing short of amazing.
But of all her amazing accomplishments, the trait that has inspired me the most has been her faithfulness. Through good times and bad, she has always trusted that she was a part of a greater plan and that everything was always going to work out.
The night that I had my own spiritual awakening and decided that I no longer wanted to live a self-centered life, she was the first person I called as I knew she would understand exactly what I was going through. Though I know she’s not perfect, I see that she intimately understands what it means to sacrifice for others. From her son and the friends she would let live with her, to the young children in her second grade class and now her husband, Irma is no stranger to sacrifice.
Having the strength to go first and be a leader in a family that is as vocal and hard-charging as mine could only be done by someone who legitimately trusts God, despite not being able to fully understand Him. Through Irma’s example, I learned that you don’t have to have all the answers, so long as you are willing to be faithful.
How to Be Patient – My Brothers/Sisters (In-Law)
Since my siblings are significantly older than me, most of their spouses been part of the family for the majority of my life. As such, I find it odd every time I have to introduce them with the “in-law” qualifier, seeing that we have been family for over thirty years. Having already been blessed with the greatest brothers and sisters in the world, getting equally amazing siblings-in-law almost seems unfair. Yet, here I am.
Not only have each of my in-laws made my siblings better people through their marriages, but they have made major contributions to both me as an individual and our collective family. While some have brought wonderful children into our family, others have opened their homes and hosted us all for vacations and reunions. What makes their contributions all the more special is that my family is crazy, and simply surviving within our midst is commendable. But for them to thrive amongst the chaos, and even become ring leaders at times, is a testament to how spectacular they truly are.
On a personal level, my in-laws have always treated me like their own little brother, and I’ve shared countless wonderful experiences with each of them. Among the most memorable was when my brother (in-law) McHardy (last name) took me flying in a little two-seat Cessna airplane for my seventh birthday. The time my brother (in-law) Condas (last name) and I learned to surf together in Maui. The several Christmas mornings my brother (in-law) Rambo (nickname) and I have spent at the church in park with our homeless brothers and sisters. And the evening my brother (in-law) Moises (actual name) explained to me how his master’s degree in Spirituality basically taught him the importance of community. Though I didn’t recognize the relevance of this conversation at the time, it has had a profound impact on my life since then.
For clarification sake, Moises is the only one I call by his first name because my other three brothers (in-law) are all named Robert. That’s right, I have four sisters and three brothers (in- law) named Bob.
Though I’m not as close with my sisters (in-law) as I am with my brothers, there is no doubt that they have also had a huge impact on my life. Like the time my sister (in-law) Amy gave me a burned copy of John Mayer’s “Room for Squares” CD. In addition to blowing my mind during a very formative time in my life, a love for John Mayer’s music was the first thing Bonnie and I had in common. Six albums later, he’s still one of our favorites.
The many times that my sister (in-law) Patricia didn’t kick me out of her house, the morning after a debaucherous night with my brother Noel, are definitely appreciated. But nothing beats the time she didn’t kill us when caught me, Noel, and Meissa, playing with power tools and a bottle a Makers Mark at 3am.
Perhaps the biggest impact has come from my sister (in-law) Annalicia (Nana). Nana has not only been a great friend to Bonnie since we moved from Florida to my hometown in Utah five years ago, but she has been the most wonderful aunt to our children. Every time they even hear her voice on the other side of the backyard fence we share, they each lose themselves with excitement: “I hear Nana!!!” The love she has for our kids is beyond compare and that has been a tremendous blessing in our lives.
E Pluribus Unum (“Out of Many, One”)
When Bonnie was pregnant with our second child Lili, we started discussing how with two kids, Lili was only going to get half the amount of time and attention that Lexi (our oldest) got when she was born. Being an only child, this was of great concern to Bonnie as it didn’t seem fair for the younger children in a family to not get as much individualized attention as their older siblings. Especially since this individualized time decreases more and more with each additional child.
What Bonnie didn’t understand at the time was how much attention the siblings give to and get from each other. While it’s true that my Mom and Dad didn’t teach me to ride a bike, throw a spiral, play hide and go seek, or swim, the fact is that they didn’t have to. I had eight older brothers and sisters to teach me.
Of all the many wonderful skills and lessons that I learned from my siblings, the greatest of them all is definitely their example of how to be a great sibling. How to be supportive and accepting, how to be competitive and thick-skinned, and how to say, “I’m sorry” and forgive.
Through good times and bad, my brothers and sisters have always stuck together, as I believe we each understand while we’re more than competent on our own, we are much better together.
Posifocus Mantra #6
Brotherhood is My Superpower.
Are you as close with your siblings as you’d like to be? What could you do to strengthen your relationship? How would your lives be better if you were closer?
Reach out to your siblings and start a conversation. Add them to the Contacts section of the Posifocus app.
Join the Posifocus Group and share your thoughts and experiences with the Posifocus Community! Use the hashtag #siblings.