Who do you love unconditionally? Who loves you unconditionally? Who do you love despite their flaws?
That's easy: My brother.
I just listened to "How Our Siblings Shape Us" on NPR's On Point show and it's so totally true:
If you’ve got brothers and sisters, you know it’s true: only siblings are partners for life. Parents go early. Children come late, when we’re already stamped and made. Siblings are there from the get go.
Brothers and sisters who challenge, protect, torment, defend. Who listen, scold, goad, counsel. Who know you. Some are close. Some are distant. They stamp you either way. For better, for worse, for life.
If you have siblings, you know it's true. Siblings mold us. They help us socialize, they help us learn how to fight (or argue), they help us become who we are. It doesn't matter if you grew up as one of thirteen children, or if you only grew up with one sibling. Our brothers and/or sisters make us who we are. It happens through mentoring, through modeling specific behaviors, and even through arguing with you. Siblings teach us how to manage conflicts and how to have a proper argument or discussion.
I have one brother. He's three and a half years younger than me. When I was growing up, I hated him. Seriously. We fought constantly. We would punch and kick and push each other. We would argue with each other. We would complain about each other. We would do things to get the other in trouble. On road trips my parents would have to put luggage or pillows or a cooler between my brother and me in the backseat just so we wouldn't "accidentally" invade the others space.
But then something strange happened. I moved out.
When I went away for college, my brother and I started to get close. When I popped home for the weekend, he and I would be civil to each other, we would joke around with each other, we would even hang out with each other. Then he would come out to Rochester for a long weekend. We were becoming friends. And there was no looking back. I had a best friend for life. Unrelated friends come and go. People move away. People have children. People grow apart. But when a sibling moves away or has a child, instead of growing apart, we grow closer.
As the older one, I always feel the need to protect my brother. This is one of the reasons he was my "co-Best Man" instead of just my Best Man at my wedding. I'm not going to get into the personal details here, but needless to say I felt like I didn't want to put all of that pressure on him and I didn't want to put him in a position to be in the spotlight. And I knew he would have said it was fine and he would take on more than he could handle and he would do more than he should and he would end up worse in the long run and it would have been my fault.
My brother and I have different beliefs and different morals and different opinions about a lot of topics. Every four years when the presidential election season comes around, we try to avoid talking politics. It's very difficult. It's almost like an unspoken game we're both playing. And of course there are religious and Bible-based opinions we both have that are in conflict with each other. Sometimes. But in both the political and religious debates, we agree to disagree. We don't win and we don't lose. We don't storm out and give the other the silent treatment for a month. We just chalk it up to a draw and we move on. What's next?
If I want to get morbid, I can see a day when I won't have my parents and I can see a time when I'll be without my good friends, but I can't see a day when I won't have my brother. My brain just won't process something like that. Despite all of my flaws and mess-ups and issues, he'll always be there (I hope). And despite all of his flaws (which I probably put there when we were younger), I'll be there for him.
That's just the way it is.