If you read my blog even semi-regularly, then you know that my family is without question the most important aspect of my life. I'm blessed to have the most amazing family; we've always been close and I always look forward to the holidays when we can come together and enjoy each other's company.
However, as is bound to happen, as we (the "kids") have grown up, the reunions have become less, and smaller. It is difficult when members of the family get married, move away, or have other commitments, to orchestrate big family events as much. Still, as a family, we manage to have a bond tighter than most it seems, and the holidays are always a great time.
But it is my immediate family, my parents and my brother, as well as my grandfather, who really make up the "core" family for me. Being single and in my 30's, with no kids, these four people ARE my family. They're all I've got in the best, and in the worst of times. Thankfully, for the most part, we have the best of times together. Candid Mama is more than just my mom, she is and has always been, my best friend. My dad is the one of the most amazing human beings I know. No wonder I'm single, with a man like that as an example, it's no wonder the boys I've dated can never measure up. Grandpa came to live with us when my grandmother passed away seven years ago. He is an integral part of our little "circle" in so many ways. And then there's Brotherman (formerly known as Shortstuff, though I REALLY can't call him that anymore). My brother is 9 years younger than I, and that age difference has always meant that we have a special kind of relationship. He was my little "doll" to play with in the first few years of his life. Then he was the adorable toddler I'd show off to my friends. When I was in college, he was pre-teen I'd take with me to school, proud to introduce him to my "grown-up" world. And as a teenager, there were many times he'd come to me for advice, or just to talk about whatever was on his mind. As he turned into a young adult, we were friends, even traveling together, enjoying each other's company. I can't remember ever having a real fight with him, and it was strange, but comforting, when on a family trip to Mexico a few years ago, we even "partied" together. Talk about an eye opening experience...doing shots in Mexico with your "little" brother and then sitting on the beach, with a decent buzz going, talking about the state of the world.
But there was something missing for a while there. Not so much in our relationship, but with Brotherman himself. He had a rough adolescence, and it has taken him quite a long time to find his center, if you will. I've alluded to an experience this past Thanksgiving weekend that changed him, and I still won't get into details, because they were his own personal experiences, and not mine to share. However, in the last several months he's earned his name change, from Shortstuff, to Brotherman. No, not because he's had a change in height (that happened years ago), but because I can now officially look at him as a man.
This maturing in him has been nice for our whole family, and has brought about a new closeness for all of us. Since I moved out of my parents home, we've made an effort to have a "family dinner night" once a week. Lately these dinners are full of adult conversation, and just good quality time.
We all seem to enjoy this time, but what I love the most is that I think Brotherman has genuinely begun to appreciate this time himself as something he likes and wants to do, as opposed to something he feels obligated to do.
And on Easter Sunday, probably without even realizing it, he made us all a little bit more grateful for the family we have. After lunch, the two of us drove our uncle and aunt to the airport, as they were off to see my cousin PM and her family in California. I offered to go with Brotherman to keep him company on the way home, expecting him to tell me that he'd be fine, driving home with his radio on, doing his own thing. Instead he said that would be nice, and we enjoyed a grown up conversation between two siblings who have become friends as adults, on the ride home. When we returned to my parents' house, it was just the two of them at home, and dad was on the computer, mom was in the living room. We joined mom in the living room and jokingly shouted to dad that we were "having family time" and he needed to join us. So he did. And a few hours later, all four of us were still sitting around, chatting, playing with the dog, joking, and being a family. At one point mom and I said we had to go to the computer, because I needed to help her set up her blog and Brotherman said "No, we're having family time". So we laughed, and sat back, enjoying the comfort of family. Eventually, Brotherman got up and announced "Okay, family time is over." At which point we all went our separate ways, about our business. But if you had any idea how significant it is to have him be the one wanting to make that time last a little bit longer, well...then you'd just know, you know?