When did you first understand the meaning of love? Whatever made you understand love – and yourself – better, tell us about it. 1500 maximum.
Family love. It was my first discovery of love and has always been the truest, lasting love in my life.
I was lucky enough to be blessed with a family: a father, mother, and two brothers – one older, one younger. Growing up I had thought that all families were like mine; all members working together to grow and move forward. It was natural to me, the togetherness and love.
When did I truly understand the meaning of this love? I had never doubted the love because it appeared to be natural and common in my eyes. I think it was when I got out into the real world; I realized that not every family was like this. Not every family held hands tightly and walked into the fire of life.
I’ve met people that were unwilling to give up what they had to help a brother, a sister, a father, or a mother. What they had was strictly theirs and that was simply that. I also met individuals that had family members repeatedly taking advantage of them when all they wanted to do is help their sibling or parent out of love. There are even people that cut ties with their family altogether which to me would be like severing a limb.
It’s important not to assume life was just peachy for us. We certainly had our differences and dysfunctional moments (what family doesn’t?). But there was love. There was always love – even if it wasn’t always shown in the most perfect manner. Signs of love were ever present.
Perhaps my life experiences growing up served as a sort of vitamin to ensure this family love endured and stayed strong.
I remember when I was little, my dad said to my brothers and I: “Through all this hard work we’re teaching you guys how to take care of yourselves because Mom and I won’t be around forever. You might find that you can’t always count on some friends but you’ll always be able to count on each other.” With us the expression “power in numbers” could apply. Together we are one; together we are stronger.
As a family we worked through various jobs, and owing to the hard work, persistence, and struggles, we moved forward. Some of the jobs we encountered while I was growing up are as follows: selling fishing tackle, roofing, picking oranges, vending at flea markets, operating auction houses, and transporting moving trucks.
I can’t say any of these jobs were fun by any means – occasionally there were fun moments – but they taught me more than I comprehended in my younger years. Productiveness and diligence combined helped us to survive and to eventually prosper. I learned about business and interacting with customers. Handling money and learning to socialize became familiar. In a way my parents provided a personalized education that I can fully cherish now that I’m older. At the time, however, we were a little perturbed at working on weekends during school years.
My understanding of love was reinforced when my older brother came home from Iraq after almost two years. I had always loved my older brother even if we hardly got along. But knowing he was in the line of danger, fighting to protect the country we call ‘home,’ made the love so much more severe yet fragile.
How would we stay resilient with a missing link?
Another instance – my mother was in the hospital with a serious case of hepatitis. The yellowness of her skin and her hollowing cheeks frightened all of us and we had to face the possibility of Mom dying. How would we live without Mom? The steadfast soother of the family?
Thankfully our prayers were heard. My brother returned home safely and Mom pulled through with good health.
The incidents that we fear conspire to show us how important it is to love and appreciate our loved ones. I know that any day, any time, any place I can count on my parents or brothers for help. No matter what. No matter what my brothers have gotten into trouble for, no matter what I’ve said or done to upset my family, we are still a family. And you don’t abandon family.
The older I get the more I realize that Dad is right. Friends have come and gone. Significant others too. But my parents and my brothers – they will be there to the end.
I understand there are many that feel it is a shame not to be born into a rich family, an effortless life within a perfect society, a utopia if you will. My childhood was by no means terrible – not at all. Sometimes it was tough and hopeless but I can tell you this – I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It involved a family united and a lot of hard work. And that is exactly how I will raise my family someday too.
My parents, my guardian angels, wanted to provide the best they could to my brothers and I while simultaneously giving up some of the things they loved most.
Love may not always be said or showed with elaborate gifts and presents. It may not always be easy. But it was and still is present within every action from my family. Family love has given me the strength and confidence to tackle the intricacies of life. A love combined – from the original five forces (including myself) – instilled in me my real life lesson of love.