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Goeun Park: Little brothers can grow up to be friends

My baby brother is flying out here to California this weekend and I can hardly contain my excitement.

I must have been mentioning his upcoming visit a lot these past few weeks because someone recently told me, “You and your brother must be really close.”

I guess we are. I mean, you need to stay pretty close when you’re constantly trying to strangle someone.

Jin, my brother, is only three years younger than me and will be entering his junior year in high school — they grow up so fast! — so he’s technically not a baby. Technically. But this column isn’t about him. (It’s about me, like always.)

I’m sure I’ve talked about my relationship with my brother before, but long story short, we were pretty vicious to each other. A large portion of my childhood memories consists of clawing and kicking and screaming at him. I had a bad habit of stealing his food and swearing at his face while he had this annoying tendency to keep score of petty injustices and passing on the blame.

I suspect that if we weren’t two of the five Asian kids in our high school, people would never guess that we were siblings. Being an older sister to Jin was a learning experience, which is to say, I messed up. A lot.

But despite giving him more emotional scarring than emotional support, I think he turned out alright. The kid doesn’t let people down when it matters.

I still remember the first time I got a D on a college midterm; I called Jin and cried about it. His carefully and considerately thought-out response to my hysterical sobbing went something in the lines of, “Goeun, shut up and pull yourself together.”

He’s one of few people who recognizes and calls me out on my nonsense, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jin doesn’t read this column, so I’ll be frank. When we lived under the same roof, I couldn’t wait to leave. I was casually self-absorbed in the way most teenagers are and being a good sibling was not a high priority. In fact, I probably resented being my brother’s keeper.

But now that I’m only home several times a year, I want to be a decent sister. A better sister. And it’s more difficult than I imagined it’d be. It’s hard to break out of my own little world filled with my own little problems and be there for someone else, especially when I can’t physically be there.

Jin is only staying here for a week. That’s clearly not enough time for me to squeeze in months of wise, sisterly advice, but it’s enough time to grab some milk tea at the Grand Market, search for food trucks at Venice, try dim sum at Chinatown, and teach him how to shop for shirts that fit him properly at Santa Monica.

And I guess that’ll have to be enough. It’ll be more than enough. By the end of the week, we’ll probably be sick of each other’s company and at each other’s throats like usual.               

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.