Brotherly Love: A Letter of Gratitude

Brotherly Love: A Letter of Gratitude

Dear Twin Brother,

I love you. I know you know that, but I feel it’s important to explicitly reaffirm it from time to time. Where do I begin? I don’t quite know, but there is so much in me that I want to express to you, so you’ll know exactly what’s in my heart.

First, I cannot express how truly lucky and blessed I am to have had you as my brother and best friend my entire life. My dear twin. My brother. My other half. Despite the fact that we are fraternal and, therefore, only share 50% of our DNA, we couldn’t be closer in every other way. We shared the same space for nine months. We were glued at each other’s hip growing up, involved in many years of Little League, Boy Scouts, and Pop Warner football together. Where one of us went, the other was only steps behind. What one of us did, the other was sure to follow. You were my security blanket in school because I knew I was never alone. My shyness kept me from freely making new friends, but with you by my side I didn’t feel compelled to. I cannot thank you enough for that, Brother.

When we came of age and gained some independence from Mom and Dad, boy, did we take advantage of it! We did many mischievous things during our identity-formation years as teens, but then you scaled back and managed to figure things out before life got out of control. I, on the other hand, was a bit more hard-headed.

Even though I wound up in prison at 19, you didn’t condemn me, make me feel less than you; instead, you were there to visit me every chance you got. You were always quick to put money on my books, answer my expensive collect calls, and even sat down many a night to write me letters (Lord knows you dreaded that!). You sacrificed so much to ensure that your twin was okay in this dreaded situation.

When I got out at 22 you were there with Dad to pick me up. Our three-year separation had taken a toll on the both of us, but now we were reunited and vowed to never be separated like that again. You took me everywhere I needed to go (treatment meetings, parole officer’s, dentist and doctor appointments), despite the fact you worked hard and had your own obligations. If there was ever a way to repay you for your tremendous generosity, I would have done it. But then again, you would never accept anything from me because you saw yourself doing what any twin brother would do for his other half. This is just another testament to how blessed I am to have you as my brother, my best friend, my other half.

Then I put you in the worst situation one could have that fateful night in 2003. I disregarded your life when I ignored your dire warnings to slow down; instead I defiantly sped up and recklessly crashed. Thank God you were not injured. I don’t know how I could have lived with myself had I hurt you – or worse. The thought itself makes my stomach churn.

I put you in this horrid situation once again: collect calls, visits, letters and birthday cards through the mail. Saying I’m sorry doesn’t even come close to the level of remorse and regret I have for not living up to my vow to never separate us again. Yet, staying true-to-form, you never held it against me or made me feel worse than I already felt when this happened — that’s not who you are. Having said that, I still can’t help but live with great disappointment for letting you down; for subjecting you to this life of supporting your brother behind bars. But you are not one to complain, and haven’t in the now-15 years you have been in my corner. Words are simply incapable of adequately conveying my immense gratitude toward you.

Twin Brother, I could not have a stronger bond with another human being on this planet. You have been my best friend and role model for many years. I have always admired you for so many reasons — both growing up and now at 39 years old; but not even this can compare to how much I love and appreciate you. Thank you for never giving up on me, supporting me unwaveringly through my darkest hours, and showing me what unconditional love looks like. I love you.

Forever indebted,

Your Twin Brother

Cards, Letters and Jail Shenanigans

Cards, Letters and Jail Shenanigans

Regardless of the typical squabbles between siblings, my brother has always been someone I’ve looked up to — it’s even fair to say I have idolized him. (Except for the times I want to smash his face in, like all siblings do from time to time). Growing up, he was both the comic relief and the genius of the family. The class clown. Popular with teachers and students — though he didn’t seem to notice that. Every single one of my girlfriends had a crush on him (which continued after we became adults). He is the favored uncle to my kids. He’s HIGH-larious. Seriously — he’s Jerry Seinfeld-funny. He has the kind of talent as a musician that intimidates other artists. He has a photographic memory – I’ve never seen anything like it. (A friend was stunned when Rick described what was on page eight of a schematic he hadn’t seen in years). He is wrong so infrequently that it is super annoying. I mean come on! He’s impossible to argue with, which is usually why I want to smash his face in. I used to argue with him constantly. He’s my only sibling. When he and his wife bought property in Texas back in 2000, turning the talk of a long-distance move into reality, I couldn’t even speak the news out loud. It felt like I was losing my best friend. I thought it was the worst news ever.

It wasn’t. In the summer of 2013, our dad delivered the actual worst news ever. Rick had been arrested, because someone told a lie. A monstrous lie. In Texas, that’s a go-directly-to-jail card. Everything in my life is measured by that day — what happened before it, and what happened after it.

I wrote the true story below back in December of 2014, after a year and a half of the daily anguish every family member knows only too well when you’re seeing someone you love suffer unjustly.

And yet, one of the first things Rick said to me from a phone in Travis County Jail was, “There are a lot of good people in here. And a lot of sad stories.” In the midst of his own despair, he wanted to do something to help people — and Adopt an Inmate was born.

While, three and-a-half years after his arrest, we have adjusted to a “new normal,” and it helps Rick and the whole family every time we can share news that we’re helping more people — certain memories still feel like a fresh kick in the gut. This is one of them.

I hardly ever want to smash his face in any more.


Cards, Letters and Jail Shenanigans

It took four attempts to collect it from the jail. After a number of blatant lies and conflicting stories from a handful of guards and post officers, the bag was lost. We feared it had been thrown in the trash. On the third attempt to collect it, I was shouted at by one of the guards, who literally refused to hear anything I had to say.

Finally on the fourth attempt – I was shown some measure of civility by one guard, who informed me that the property had been located, and would be walked over to the video visitation building, where I was waiting for my last visit with my brother before I flew back home, and before he would be moved to prison. The guard who shouted at me exhibited great maturity when, after the bag was delivered, refused to hand me the bag even though it was six inches in front of her on the counter. She actually called another guard over (the civil one) to pick it up from in front of her and hand it to me.

This is what it’s like to try to get anything done for someone who is in jail. It is exactly how everything else has gone since this nightmare began. Save for a few angels, it is pure hell.

But wait, there’s more.

Because I was made to wait an hour and a half for the visit, even though there were over 20 —TWENTY! — available video booths and zero people ahead of me (they have perfected the art of causing families to suffer every possible unnecessary nuisance), I missed my flight. Then because of weather (now the landing time would be after dark), the connecting flight was first delayed, and then diverted, so instead of arriving home at six pm that day, I landed at an airport in a different city, and took a two and-a-half hour bus shuttle, arriving home at 4:00 the next morning.

Thanks, Travis County Correctional Center.

property bag

This bag of letters was my carry-on. I held on to that bag like it was made of gold, as if Rick himself were in there. I carried it with me through the airport to my connecting gate, clutching it until my flight finally departed. I read the cards and letters in the air, and wept quiet tears of both joy and grief, trying not to disturb my seat mates.

Among the letters were also notes from other inmates, that Rick would pass on to us so that we could contact family members and give them messages. There are many pre-trial detainees that don’t have someone on the outside with the resources to help them, so we tried to fill that gap when we could – but mostly we felt helpless.

Innocent until proven guilty? No. Not in this country. Unless you are wealthy, or have some substantial political clout, you will not be permitted to participate in your own defense. If you are charged – you’re going down.

This, and every other shenanigan we have been forced to go through, is exactly why we are starting a non-profit, to address these kinds of issues. These people have no lobbies, and thus no voices – their stories go unheard, their urgent needs unmet. That is not okay.

Look for news about our non-profit in the near future, and please continue to send cards and letters while we wait out this next chapter. We’ll get through it by focusing on this positive work, and looking forward to his release.

Trust me, there will be a big party. You’re all invited, and I can’t wait to see you there.