Need a friend? Ask your brother (or sister)

What's more important in this life than family? Nothing!

My brother “D” (A.K.A. The best karaoke singer in the world) celebrated a birthday on Monday. I hope he and the rest of my siblings will forgive me for this retrospective but I had to share a few things about our childhood that made me chuckle, cry and reflect on all the crazy things we did as kids and how we’ve all grown into adulthood.

There was a time when I thought it would be awesome if I was an only child. That was back when I was a lot more selfish than I am now. I wonder if every kid who has a brother or a sister (or seven in my case) go through that phase where you feel like you’re not getting enough attention except when you screw up. Or you feel like you’re getting shafted at Christmas because your brother got the blue truck that you wanted and you got the pink one (that didn’t really happen by the way).

It didn’t take me long before the thoughts of being an only child diminished and were altogether forgotten because I can’t imagine living a boring life without your ‘roommates/cellmates’ to back you up. Especially when dad’s asking, ‘Who did this?’ and everyone simultaneously pulls off the trademark shoulder shrug and the ‘I don’t know’ look that every kid is born with.

As siblings, born and raised in a household where you instinctively develop a coat of thick skin and learn to defend  and sometimes fend for yourself, siblings tend to be your best friends and your arch enemies all wrapped up into one.

When you’re together with your siblings, do you ever sit down and tell the same stories about your childhood and laugh like it happened just the other day? I still get teased by my siblings for some of the stupid things (there’s a long list of them) that I did as a kid. I make fun of drama queen’s but I usually had the lead role in our family’s production of the Matua family soap opera.

We are a rag-tag bunch raised by parents who would have reared a colony of kids if they could. We often laughed about leaving for school in the morning and coming home in the evening to find another family member or two (or twelve!) living in our rooms.

When I first met my wife one of the first things she asked after I took her home to meet the family was, ‘Why do you have beds in your living room and family room?’ I had to explain to her that my parents (mom especially) could never deny anyone assistance, even when we were hard on our luck. But our parents’ insistence to help others proved to be a blessing because every time the cupboards were bare, someone always showed up with food, clothing or other necessities when we least expected to be thrown a lifeline.

In times of trouble, I’ve always turned to my siblings for emotional, spiritual and sometimes financial support. They’ve never failed me. It’s been that way since we were kids. I remember driving down to California for the Summer with my older brother where we stayed with my grandparents and uncle and aunt in Compton. We loved spending time with them and enjoyed exploring the inner city with our grandfather, but by the time August rolled around, me and “Ed” were ready to go home and be with mom and dad and tell our siblings all about our time away. I remember missing them so much, even my younger siblings whom I was often annoyed with.

We’ve had some rough times for sure. It wasn’t always fun and games in the Matua household. Me and “D” didn’t always get along growing up but I can say with a surety that when things got really rough, I knew he still loved me and I definitely loved him. That’s what brothers do, right?

There’s a Bible verse that the ‘old heads’ always quote when dealing with family issues – “O uo mo aso uma a’o uso mo aso vale.” The literal interpretation: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)

In my experience, that simple phrase speaks volumes of the love that we share as siblings. Over the years I’ve had my share of bone-head moments when I’ve mistreated my siblings or abused my relationship with them. I’m grateful to them for their patience and their love. They have been a blessing to me. I hope to always be of worth to them and a shelter from life’s perils and storms.

I love you guys!

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