Seeing My Brother This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 12, 2012
Finally, it’s Saturday. I can’t wait until tonight when I visit my brother, “Matt” [name changed]. He’s in a facility, which is just a polite way to say he’s in jail. Minors can only visit on weekends. I can’t believe he’s in there. It’s so hard to accept everything that’s happened.

Last month Matt and a friend decided to steal a car. They got the keys somehow and took it. Unfortunately, they crashed when his friend swerved to miss hitting a dog in the road. Luckily, no one was hurt, but they were definitely caught.

Matt’s trial is next week. He’s charged with possession of a stolen vehicle. They couldn’t charge him with auto theft because he wasn’t driving. We think that he’ll get probation and to pay for the car. He’ll probably be working it off into his thirties. I don’t know what kind of job he can get, since he dropped out of high school. I think my dad is going to get him a job where he works.

It seems like I’m the only one learning from Matt’s mistakes. He did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, no matter how much he was punished. Maybe this experience will help him realize all he’s done.

Some family members and friends say Matt has no brain, or the common sense of a goat. I don’t believe that, though. Matt is incredibly smart – give him a math problem and he’ll solve it. He even helps me with my homework when I ask. Well, maybe beg is more like it. I think he was just bored with school.

It’s really hard on my parents, especially my mom. Sometimes in the morning when she’s in the shower, I hear her crying. I hear every sniffle and whimper over the shower. My heart is just dying for her. I run into my room and cry like there’s no tomorrow.

Sometimes I think there being no tomorrow would be a mixed blessing. I wouldn’t have to listen to her cry and beg God to help her son. I wouldn’t have to be strong for her.

I remember the one time I did break down in front of her. She started to cry so hard, harder than I’d ever thought possible. She started to say things like I need to be strong for her and I’m all she had left. It made me feel guilty and ashamed. After all, Mom is the one who carried him for nine months and raised him. I can’t imagine how this all feels to her.

My dad deals with this very differently. He was raised when a man crying was a sign of weakness. Dad reacted the only way he knew how – with anger. He didn’t hit anyone, he just kept talking about how none of his kids could have acted so stupid and not have something wrong with their head. He wanted Matt to be evaluated, repeating this over and over. Dad was a hell-raiser when he was a teenager, too. Maybe he didn’t do anything this major, but still. Dad had a job when he dropped out of high school. Matt didn’t. Is this stuff genetic?

Matt’s friends still call. They believe it’s a joke, like nothing bad could ever happen to one of their friends. I wonder how they think we feel. That’s what I used to think until my mom came to me crying and mumbling that Matt was in jail. I just stood there stunned with Mom hanging onto me sobbing her heart out. She was crying so hard her whole body shook. I thought that only happened in the movies.

My friends heard about it and asked me all kinds of questions, even my boyfriend. I tried to make it into a joke and not show my emotions. My boyfriend saw right through me. Later, when we were alone, he asked for the truth about how I felt. I broke down. He put his arms around me and whispered that it’d all be okay. He chanted it like a sacred prayer. I had finally found a shoulder to cry on, a safe haven to run to, an anchor in the emotional storm I was going through. I just let everything out. I don’t know how long I cried, but it felt good.

I dealt with everything better after that. I don’t let it build up inside me. I call my boyfriend and talk. I hate the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen next, but life goes on and I deal. That’s all you really can do. Well, that – and be there for my mom and Matt.

Right now I just pray that Matt will change. Maybe if he knew what everyone’s going through he would. He just needs to realize that his actions affect other people, especially those who love him.

You know what? I still love him. How can I not? He’s always going to be my brother and I’ll always be his sister. That’s never going to change. Neither is the fact that I will always be there for him and help him when he needs it.

The only good thing about all this is that Mom knows where Matt is. Maybe she can rest easier knowing he’s alive and not dead or in danger. Even though jail wasn’t the alternative she was looking for.

Whoa, it’s 6:30 p.m. I need to get ready. Where’s Mom? She should be here by now. What should I say to him? I hope I won’t cry. It’ll be hard enough.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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