I thought he was cool, funny, and smart (in a witty sort of way). I thought he had cool friends, listened to cool music, and was all around awesome.
I think many of my own developed personality traits are shadows of what I perceived his to be. I would always try to mimic the qualities in him that I liked so I could have them, myself.
Funny thing is, he absolutely loathed me - likely because I was the annoying little sister who wouldn't leave him to himself. He would torture me to no end, and I happily took it in stride. I'd dish it back to him now and again, but I mostly just accepted that he treated me like a jerk because of how much I tried to hang around him.
I was a sophomore in high school when he went off to college. He still lived at home, but at that point, I'd found my own groove with my own set of friends and didn't feel the need to siphon off his personality anymore. I'd come into my own, figured out who I was and wanted to be, so Ray no longer had to peel me off himself like some sort of diseased leper.
In fact, I, myself, was rarely home anymore. That, coupled with my personal family dynamic, allowed me to grow radically distant from my siblings (with the exception of my younger sister, Maria, with whom I always fostered a good relationship).
As a result, the change to our relationship was instantaneous. We no longer felt the need to retreat from dialogue. He didn't see me as an annoying, snotty twit, and I didn't see him as a pompous jerk who treated me unfairly. It was refreshing, and I relished this change. I once again had my big brother back and we could share laughs over childhood experiences and talk about actual issues we both routinely faced (whether work-related, family-related or otherwise).
I guess the fact that I brought John to the table didn't hurt. My husband (then boyfriend) clicked with him almost instantly.
Anyway, again fast forward a few more years. I'm pregnant with Vince and I get to share news that he's an Uncle. The amount of sports clothing and toys that he excitedly got for Vincent is ridiculous. He's a big Flyers fan, so Vince had the PJs, the jackets, the shirts - even pants with the logo on it. He supported Vince (and therefore, me) when the in-fighting broke out over how our sister was treating Vincent. It felt good to be defended in that way. To have him protect Vincent, myself and John in that manner was such a change given how easily I'd been thrown under the bus by my family in the past.
To them I was the "bad child." Frankly, I was the same to Ray for a really long time because no one ever tried to learn if the gossip they spread amongst themselves was even true or not. However, now that Ray was in the mix and had allowed himself to get to know me and see for himself who I was as a person, he brought that common sense back to the family. As a result, folks weren't so easily able to just write me off as being a terrible individual worthy of constant disdain and disrespect.
For example, before things with Ray developed, I was routinely neglected from family events. I can't even tell you how many times I found out about baptisms and birthday parties AFTER they'd already happened. It was so frustrating. Excuses I'd get ranged from, "Oh, we just thought you'd be busy that day" to "Well, so-and-so thought you might embarrass them."
It's funny now, because as I sat in the hospital room with my brother and sister as we kept her company waiting for Isaac, the two of them reminisced about things as if I already knew about them. I had to keep reminding them over and over again that I didn't actually remember any of it because I was ostracized from the group. I missed out on several years of relationships, anecdotes and shared experiences, but given how good our relationships are now, they tend to forget that. In a lot of ways, I guess that's a good thing because it just shows how much things have changed for the better.
Obviously I feel that way about a bunch of people, but reminders like this are always welcome so I can say a quick prayer of thanks for the folks in my life who really count.
It made me appreciate the unthinkable changes that have gone on in my life in such a short span of time. And these changes... they really were at one time unthinkable for me.
But God is good. These changes have been wonderful and joyous and appreciated. When I mused this aloud to a friend of mine who has seen (and felt) this transition with me first hand, she actually said, "Geez - it makes me wonder why you are so insistent that Vince have siblings."
I laughed, because I understand her point. But I also understand that my experience is not normal - by ANY stretch of the imagination. Only recently have things evened out to a level of normal that I never knew. And again, seeing how well Maria was looked after by myself, my brother, and our other two sisters (there are five of us), I sorta hurt a little for Vincent because should he ever be in that situation, he won't have those siblings to give him the support that we gave (together with our mother, obviously) to Maria. That makes me sad, and I again wonder about how this will effect him later in life.
He's still the funny, cool and smart guy I knew he was way back when. He's still someone I can admire and appreciate, rely on and love.
So take a moment today to be thankful for the folks in your life who are awesome. Say a prayer of thanks for them, because each has been a blessing to you... a little kiss from God to remind you that He loves you enough to make sure these gems are in your life.