“Mom is upset with me again.”
What now? I thought to myself as I stared down at the green text bubble my younger brother sent me. It was one among countless other pleas for backup when he and my mom disagreed, which was often. When you have a 15-year-old boy and a stubborn Puerto Rican woman under one roof, things are bound to get heated. Assuming my usual position as referee, I asked him what happened.
“I basically told her I'm atheist,” he wrote back.
My brother's new view came as a shock and personal failure to my mother, especially after I defended it. To her credit, she did all that she could to foster a sense of faith in us. My brother and I spent the first years of our school lives within the walls of Roman Catholic schools, me in plaid skirts and him in unflattering pants saying rosaries and praying before every meal. Our mom didn't follow all the rules herself, but she did attend Catholic school her entire life. When it came to believing in God, there were no exceptions. The line between a person who went to heaven and an atheist had clearly been drawn. We just weren't convinced.