Today I had a little tiff with my brother.
Over nothing major, really, it was basically an argument about how much chores we each did and accusing each other of not doing enough.
In particular, he insisted my sister (the quintessential middle child) barely did any chores because she was busy with school. And that I didn’t care, nobody did, about him and that the chores were precisely the reason he couldn’t study.
Angry words were exchanged, voices got sharper with each passing minute, and at the end of it he was crying silently (his back stubbornly facing me) and I was trying my darndest not to cry. And in the end the core of the matter wasn’t even about the chores at all, it was about how he felt taken for granted (and me writing it off as ridiculous).
Blood is thicker than water.
Everybody says it like the gospel truth whenever family issues crop up, yet it still is humbling when a jolt of realization shoots through me, just how much we take our families for granted, how much I take my family for granted.
It’s easy to assume just because we’ve lived around the same people for our whole, if not most of our lives, that because we share blood and little habits we pick up from one another and the same way our nose scrunches when we laugh that we think, we assume that we know them, and they know us, and this very knowledge we assume we have entitles us to say, yes, blood truly is thicker than water.
What we fail to see is that the very nature of the intimate relationship we have with family, that they are the blood that courses through us is how the thickness chokes us, derails us from saying truly what we feel.
The very blood we share congeals our words and coagulates the emotions we throw at each other when hurt; we put up our pride as shields and effectively curdle our relationships. The very thickness of the familial bond, the blood that ties us together makes the hurt we cause upon one another all the more upsetting, all the more traitorous because how could you, you are my family.
Blood is thicker than water, yes, but precisely it is because we are blood, living breathing blood and not water- that we have to nourish it, to be aware of the poisonous feelings we imbue in it through our treatment of one another.
And at the end of the day, I was aware, I could hear the hurt in my brother’s voice as he says, “nobody cares about me” and the unspoken I’m all alone because this all-too-familiar loneliness is in me too. But because I was angry, because I need to be right I threw a “fine, be the victim” as a parting shot and retreated to my room.
It’s hard to be honest when I’ve spent all my life being the kind of elder sister per expectations and that I’m not all that close with my brother. Which, I know is not an excuse by any measure, but still.
Maybe I’ll fry him up some eggs tomorrow. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll be a little kinder.
I’ll try again.