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COLUMN: Fam(ily)

Heights Columnist

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 23:02

The saying goes, “Home is where the heart is,” so I can’t possibly consider Boston College a home—or so I thought.

Being about four hours away from home, I sought a support system on campus. Before arriving, I only knew two kids from back home who were coming to BC, but I didn’t know them very well. One of them is a half-Puerto Rican, half-Dominican who sometimes loves too much for his own good, whereas the other is a self-proclaimed “Afro-Dominican sensation” who’s indecisive about a lot of things except his passion for education reform. Nevertheless, these two soon became three when we met a Jamaican-American who has a tough exterior worth breaking into. Fast-forward to today—we are now a group of six since we’ve become brothers with another Dominican who always takes the time to listen, and though I give him a hard time, a Mexican who has a good heart and great intentions. Many people pride themselves on the grades and accolades they achieve, but I constantly brag about the brethren I’ve come to know in my three semesters at BC. Despite the fact that I boast about and have laughed and cried in front of them, I haven’t always appreciated them.

Instead of concerning myself with the family I do have, I oftentimes think about the one I could have. As much as I’d like to have someone to eat with every time I walked into Lower, I don’t, and knowing this bothers me. I don’t mind being alone, but I hate feeling like I am. Although there are bound to be familiar faces in any dining hall on campus, they aren’t individuals who know me to the extent that my core group of friends does because I tend to be aloof with most. Channeling my inner Willy Lowman, I want to be well-liked, but it’s selfish of me to feel as though no one cares when there are people across this campus who hold me in high regard—when I say I don’t have many friends, I disrespect those who have invested part of themselves in me. The truth is, there are people at BC—students and faculty alike—who would be quicker to lend me a helping hand than some family members back home. While I criticize these people who see no value in being blood-related, I oftentimes recognize much of their thoughtlessness and selfishness in myself. How could one expect people to continue caring when one isn’t willing to reciprocate the effort? Going to visit friends in 90 from Lower or paying $10 to see them perform in Robsham isn’t too much to ask, but I take my friends and family for granted.

She vacuums a college-educated family’s living room and leaves her 1-year-old daughter with a babysitter in order to help her husband—who slaves over a hot grill as he gets scolded because he misread an order written in a language foreign to him— with the bills. Yet, knowing all of that, I’d rather let time fly than give them—my parents—a call.

In the past, I’ve described myself as “family-oriented” but never allowed this portrayal to go past being something I said or wrote. As Father Michael says, love is not a noun, but it is instead a verb—without action, family does not go past being kin. As humans, we oftentimes aren’t as aware of who cares as we are of who is present. In my immediate family, I have been absent for the greater part of two years—I missed my 1-year-old sister’s first steps, science fair projects presented by my 9-year-old brother, and goals scored by my 15-year old brother. Although I wish I would’ve been present during these moments in my siblings’ lives, I reminisce about times I’ve been home and realize that I oftentimes spend vacations in my room, not wanting to be bothered or criticizing, rather than encouraging, my younger brothers. My reasoning behind the way my brothers and I interact with each other—because they’d also rather watch television or hang out with their friends than converse and spend time with me when I’m home—is the family dynamic that exists within our household. With the exception of my mother, explicit affection was never shown while I was growing up and the words “Te quiero mucho” were never part of regular conversation. Now that I’m in my second year at BC, however, I realize that love is—and always was—present in our family. To kids who don’t see their father much during the day, can’t be accompanied by their mothers to school functions or soccer matches, and don’t hear from their oldest brother whom they only see on holidays and in the summer, love may not seem to be what they’ve experienced, but that doesn’t mean it should stay that way.

From Feb. 21 to Feb. 23, the Organization of Latin American Affairs (OLAA) hosted Latino Family weekend. Although my immediate family could not attend, my 15-year-old brother did. He’s going through what I went through when I was his age—girls, wanting to go out, thinking he knows it all, and not seeing too far into the future. My brother and I have never had the best relationship, but in learning that he’s been struggling with classes, I vowed to make an effort to help him out since I had gone through similar struggles. At first, my way of showing him I cared was through tough love, but this didn’t convey to him how much I really care. In bringing him to visit BC, I gave him an opportunity that I did not have prior to embarking on my own college journey, since I am the first person in my family to attend college. While he’ll never tell me how much spending time together meant to him, exposing him to my life at BC will encourage him to focus on meaningful things, rather than on the ills to which many of our peers back in the Bronx fall victim. I hope he can do for our younger brother what I have tried to do for him and also do so for our siblings, family, and community.

My brother’s visit meant that part of my “heart” was present in my new home and that old and new family can get along. All it took was a sign of love, so whether at BC, back home, or wherever you are, don’t forget to remind your family members that you love them.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights

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