Mission Statement

Seeking the good, the light and a smidgeon of sanity out of tragedy.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

10 Years in Prison (and Counting)

The USDB Visitor Center, a check-in point

It’s been five years since I’ve written about my brother’s journey, but time – and his progress – have not stood still.  Part of my silence was due to a granted re-trial and appeals hearing on his behalf, and I’ll share more on that later, but today, we celebrate the fact that my brother has been awarded summa cum laude for earning his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Adams State University. 

On Thursday, August 30th, he stood with 24 other graduates, (and there were a dozen other non-attending graduates, 11 of which are in the shoe and one that has been already paroled), in a ninety-minute official ceremony in the converted visitors’ area to celebrate and award their achievements.  Twenty-two inmates received their Associates degree, six received their Bachelor’s, two their Masters, and then a handful of Certificates.  Dressed in traditional black caps and gowns, the newly-minted graduates heard speeches from their five of the represented schools – Adams, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Upper Iowa University, Missouri Western State University, and Nations University – and received their degrees.

There were 21 outside visitors to witness this event, in addition to about 25 staff, including a handful of professors who taught the correspondence courses.  The Head of the Adams program told my brother, “You make us look good.”

In addition to being only one of two summa cum laude graduates, my brother is the only known person at this time to have gone from zero college education since entering the system to actually graduating.  When my brother entered prison, he only had his GED. 

He’s already started on his MBA, to boot.

In his words: 

Nobody works as hard as I do.  I crush it every day.
During my first day of sitting across from him for eight and a half hours in the visitors’ room over the course of three visits – 8AM to 11AM, 1PM to 4PM and 7PM to 9:30PM – he emphasizes time and time again how the system does not make it easy for the inmates to get their degrees and how much effort he had to put in to get this far.  He’s really proud of himself.  He’s very proud of his peers.

The ones who are encouraging others to do college are the other inmates.  He notes, “Signing up for courses is a challenge.”
Asked to elaborate, he offers a series of obstacles that he had to hurdle: 1) they didn’t offer the courses he needed; 2) if they did offer the needed course, the GI bill said he owed them money or he had been dropped off their benefit list; 3) they are only allowed 4 courses per semester unless they get a waiver; 4) they have to be on pass, which requires prior planning and approval to even sign up and attend classes – and in his case, sometimes, they forgot to sign him up on pass; 5) he had to navigate the nuances of every school he signed up with; 6) he had to keep track of his own school records, everything he paid and monies owed; 7) each school had different policies for textbooks; 8) he couldn’t type up papers if the computer lab was not available to him, which was a frequent issue, and my brother had to hand-write assignments that were 30 to 45 pages in length; in fact, there are only 7 computers available to the whole 400-inmate population and often they are only allowed to access them during a 2-hour study hall time once a week; and 9) the lack of teacher availability or enough students enrolled in a course would cause the class to be canceled.

I achieved this degree despite all the obstacles they put in front of me.” His lips purse with his determination.  “(This journey) was so much more than academics.  I find a way to get the job done.
My brother feels he’s an atypical prisoner.  

“I bring my textbooks to work.”
He then explains with an almost ferocious intensity his high level of organization until I poke him and tell him to lighten up.  He laughs.  And he nods noting he makes such a big deal out of it, because he’s in an environment where he has little to no control over anything else.

One more direct result of getting his degree is that he was passed the torch of being the Inmate Math Tutor of Fast Math.  He is now teaching other prisoners how to do basic math, from long division to multiplication to percentages, fractions and more.  It’s a 15-week syllabus, and my brother does have a knack with all of it.

He’s very interested in becoming an Engineer, where he can design things and utilize his beloved math, though again, he has little choice in the next round of educational offerings.  His MBA track will have a pre-determined emphasis on Leadership and Management.  He does see those as valid skills, though he talks about adding Finance classes to his agenda.

He’s actually like me.  We are both goal-driven and like marking off our “to-do” lists.  We both believe in the value in making learning a life-long goal.

One significant difference: I know how to relax and play.  

My brother smiles, “Yeah, I need to learn to do that more.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beyond Expectations

My brother in the USDB is adjusting surprisingly well.

I received a 4-page hand-written letter from my brother in the USDB, and quite frankly, he is adjusting to the news of his twin’s passing and life in prison way better than expected. He thanks me for taking care of the funeral arrangements. Surprisingly, he calls the last two weeks "peaceful".
"I've really made a point to relax and take it easy. I've been exercising, lifting weights again... I had lost a lot of weight from fasting. So now, I'm putting on weight again. I feel good. I'm healthy. I’m also now slowly getting back into reading and my studies and meditations and recording my dreams – which were things I had stopped since (our brother) died."
In fact, his words explain his feelings best, so I will continue with what he says:
"Some people have told me that I’ll always 'have a lump in my heart' or that 'a piece of me will always be missing' – which I have always immediately responded with 'No, I will not always have a lump in my heart. I will move through this, I will make peace with this and get past it. I am whole, I am complete within myself and I’m ok.' Which is true. Y'know, I'll love (our brother) for the rest of my life, and I’m dearly sorry that he was suffering so bad. I really tried to help. I recognize that this radically affects my life both inside of prison and when I get out. There is no denial here. I recognize the significance of this situation. But also, I am not emotionally or psychologically dependent on (our brother) or anyone else."
I knew that. He acknowledges I know that. Our brother wore a mask of bravado, but was definitely the more fragile – and dependent – of the two. That's also why he had an addiction problem – it stemmed from this dependency. Whether it was survivor's guilt, or a feeling of responsibility for what happened to the two of them years ago, he could just never move beyond it. He clung. Desperately, and we both knew he was depressed, even suicidal. And we both tried to help.
"If anyone thought that (our brother) didn’t feel remorse, guilt, embarrassment from all the stupid shit he's done, they would be very wrong. (Our brother) was humiliated from his own actions, and he knew it was his own fault, but gosh, depression can be debilitating."
In my one brother's case, it kept him stuck in one place in time for years.
"I'm not mad at (him). I'm disappointed. He was so close to moving out of Philadelphia and to Phoenix (I did not know this). He tried. So long best friend.
My brother in the USDB has adjusted to this loss in interesting ways.

"I’ve been showing guys around here some origami. I discovered when I was in county that helping someone else with something, even something so minor as an origami piece, can actually be very therapeutic for myself.

I've been cutting the grass outside and I enjoy my job. I find myself in positions to save little critters from getting hurt, like frogs. Earlier this week, I was operating the motorized weed whacker and for a brief moment, I wasn't paying attention to what I was cutting and I whacked a sleeping bird in the face. I didn't know birds slept on the ground. I thought he died instantly, but then I saw he was still alive. I turned off my tool and got to my knees and picked up the bird with my hands. I was so sorry. He gasped for breath and died in my hands.

I'm a vegetarian now by the way. I have been for about two months. I just don't want to eat animals anymore, especially if it's unnecessary, like if I have a nutritious alternate. They mostly give us rice and beans here, or mixed vegetables, but I get what I need from the salad bar. I also eat a lot of peanut butter. I've also been drinking more milk to balance the PH levels in my stomach, so I don’t get bellyaches."
My brother tells me he's reading a book of Zen Koans I sent him. He states that as a Buddhist, he affiliates himself with Zen.

As for his first level appeal, it was denied. As expected. Still, he is disappointed. He was hoping for a reduction of his sentence to "life with parole." He tells me the second level of appeals will take about 6-8 months. I'll take his word on this.

He sends me his love. And our lives go on.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Death In The Family

One twin brother takes his own life; how will the other twin react?

It was only a week ago I got the call. It's the type of phone call where you have an overwhelming sense of disbelief and the feeling of unreality makes you disconnect from all that is around you. I was truly numb. To hear that one of my twin half-brothers deliberately jumped off of a 19-story-high building in Philadelphia at 6AM that Sunday morn still confounds my sense of logic. Even a week later, I can’t imagine the darkness and hopelessness that had to be there for him to even take that step. I try, but I can’t.

I tried to help him four years earlier, but that was a failure. I don’t blame myself. You can’t help one who doesn’t help their self. I briefly played the “what if” game, but I realized it was a futile exercise at this point. My brother – well, I loved him very, very much, but he was broken. The news was a shock, but dare I say, it wasn’t surprising.

Now, it’s my other twin half-brother who is in the USDB – they were identical twins and as close as twins can be. So, how do you get an emergency message to an inmate inside the USDB? I found the answer through a private Facebook group, “Loved ones that are away.” I thank them for their quick guidance. It turns out the American Red Cross handles these type of events through their Emergency Communication Services.  To clarify, this is a service for military families, and thus, the USDB falls under their purview.

American Red Cross
I reached out to the Red Cross and the woman on the other end couldn’t have been more sympathetic and helpful. The Red Cross does verify this type of information before they relay it along, and I gave them the Medical Examiner’s number at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Shortly after that, I received an email that the message had been passed along to the Command at the USDB, and not long after that, one relative and one family friend verified that my brother was calling them with the sad news.

I have not spoken with my brother directly yet. I wanted him to speak with our father, who was on-site and had a first-hand account of what happened. Even now, the pieces are still coming together, and I’m filling in the picture. I will write to my brother soon. I’m at my best when I write. However, I did want him to have the news as soon as possible.

My twin brothers are only 24-years-old. One chose to end his life, and the other is in prison for life. It is not something I wish on any family.

Many are concerned how my brother inside the USDB will take this news about his twin. Several have asked me if he could do something similar to himself – and the answer is “I doubt it.” No, interesting enough, my twin brothers donned facades. The “aggressive” one with the larger than life ego was the one who was the more fragile of the two and the one who jumped. The one with the “gentler, sweeter” disposition was the one who proved capable of murder and is inside the system. He is strong mentally however.

It has been a couple years since I last blogged about either of them, but my one brother inside the USDB has changed – he’s getting smarter and has for the most part accepted his fate that he will be there for years to come. Buddhism and meditation are a big part of his daily ritual, so just based on those practices, I think he’ll hold solid.

Will he change? Yes, I think this will impact him greater than any other individual out there. This was his twin, a part of himself. They talked every week since he’s been on the inside. How he will adjust to that missing influence only time will tell. I know he has friends on the inside, but I can’t imagine anyone will ever be able to fill this particular void.

For me, I have gone through my sleepless nights and fits of anger, but I have come to accept that I will not embrace the one brother again in this life. I have arranged for his ashes to spread by his Boy Scout troop on their annual backcountry trip, where he will be remembered on the Tooth of Time. My brother was an Eagle Scout and was his best in that environment.

For the other, I have promised him that as long as he doesn’t push me away, I will be a steady presence in his life. I write him once a month, I visit him once a year, and I am there for him. When he asks me for something, I do it. He’s in prison, but he’s a good soul. He still has potential, and there is still a life he can live on the outside at some point. I will be there for him if he wants.

For my other brother, may he rest in peace.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Solitary

My brother reveals he’ll be in "The Hole" for the next month.

When discouraged or disappointed, I always try to find the upside. The positive of my brother wanting to see me only during the afternoon visitation time – I get to sleep in. Blessed sleep. I like my sleep.

I languorously get up, shower, pack my little overnight bag and sample the hotel’s breakfast buffet downstairs. The drive back to the Fort Leavenworth base is uneventful, but I enjoy passing the Canadian Geese who seem to congregate near the town of Tracy off the 92.

Normal check-in at the USDB. My brother chooses the table we sit at after our hug. He enjoyed his morning visit with the mother and son, but wryly notes that they were late in coming. Personally, I feel it’s super-important to be right on time for these guys in prison. Visitors are a treat and every minute counts… they’re also military. They’ve been bred to respect time.

But one tidbit I learned (from the mother and son) and did not do on my first year visit was to bring in a plastic baggie of change for the vending machines. It seems that my brother appreciates that treat as well. I get us a couple Dr. Peppers, diet for me, with my baggie of quarters. I try for chips – twice – but the snacks get stuck – twice. With the nod of the guard, whom I’m informed can’t do anything for us, we shake the stubborn machine. Finally, I shrug and give up. I’ve run out of change.

I sit down with my brother when another fellow visitor kindly gets up to make a go of it. We hold our breath as he attempts to push for the same snack a third time – and voila, all three packages tumble down.

We gratefully thank him for our two.

Let me cut to the core of my brother’s and my conversation that afternoon: I discover that the following day, Monday, he’ll be going into Solitary for a full month. Yes, that means, he’ll be in a new cell for 23-hour lock-down with only one hour out in "the cage."

The reason: my brother quietly refused to change pods.

He reflects on it and says it was probably silly, but he didn’t want to move and said "no." Initially, they were going to give him a kinder punishment, but somewhere along the line, they upped the ante to a month in Solitary. He doesn’t know why.

A note card from him about ten days after my visit shares this:

Today’s day 7 of my disciplinary segregation experience. It’s not so bad. Sure, I’m doing solitary time, but I keep myself busy and don’t think about all the other stuff I could be doing, which is also pretty much how I do my time in General Population too. There are many disadvantages to living in solitary confinement, but there are a few advantages, like the extremely stable atmosphere where I can really focus on something with minimum distractions.

So I just "nail my scrotum to the chair" and push through monster books 'cause when you’re in solitary confinement, 8 hours of reading a day is not uncommon. Heck, you could do a lot more than that if you put your mind to it…

But I also exercise and meditate and yell at people across the room.

He tells me it’s not the first time he’s done Solitary. He was confined several times in County, but for lesser amounts of time. The turnover is so high in County that they have to push through the inmates and their punishment times. A fight in the USDB will land the inmates a full year in Solitary, he tells me.

At County, my brother got busted for sharing one cigarette with five others. Three got caught. He also told me that he learned how to make moonshine from oranges and bread yeast. He got in trouble for that one as well. He notes the irony that he only learned that trick by being on the inside with hardened criminals/repeat offenders.

This is his first time in Solitary at the USDB. He has no intention of getting more time.

This visit is more serious in tone than the day before, but I give him my love and hugs and promise to be back in about a year’s time again. I would like to visit more, but it does take time and money, and I would rather be a steady soul than to make unfilled promises.

I will never know what it feels like to be incarcerated, much less to be confined 23-hours a day, so I can only be grateful that my brother faces it with a brave face and a calm demeanor.

His Buddhist philosophy emphasizes living only in the "now," the present moment – but this is the time I most wish for the future, for him.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Year Two, Visit Two (Plus Two)

My second-year visit to the USDB brings a couple of surprises.

It already feels like old hat. The flight into Kansas, the late-night rental car pick-up, a mere four hours of sleep, and I’m back at the main gate to Fort Leavenworth popping the hood, the trunk and opening all four doors for my car to be inspected. But no glitches. I drive straight back to the USDB, and it’s as quiet as it was previously. Still pretty and green, contrasted only by the stark circling barbed wire on top of the high fences and stonewalls of the prison.

The entryway is still quiet and deserted. Same small yellow sign points visitors upstairs.

I check in, and smartly, based on last year’s faux pas, get a locker. Jacket and purse get tucked away.

I pass through the metal detector gate, am buzzed through the security door, which slams shut, and allows the second thick door to open into the visiting room.

I cross the stone-walled visiting room and wave to my brother, who I can see peeking through the opposite door window, where the inmates wait until their respective visitors arrive.

He enters with a surprised look on his face.

"I thought you were coming May 28th!"
We bear hug.

"No, silly. I sent you the dates I was coming back in February."

"Wow, okay… this is good timing."
Second surprise:

"I hope you don’t mind that I have two other visitors."
I know the other two. A mother and son. I haven’t seen the mother since the trial and actually have never met her son, though, of course, she talked of him all the time.

"No problem. We’ll just have to share."
My brother and I start to play catch-up. Because letters and phone calls are screened, he clarifies that his letters are more vague and general, because he doesn’t want to give out information. He has friends there, but he can only talk about them and the system in person. I discovered this protective side in him of his fellow inmates last year.

We cover family first. I still have not had any contact with my father, aside from that two-minute phone call back in December. My father apparently injured his ankle early this year and has been recovering from that accident. My Lost Brother, whom I’ll now refer to as my YC Brother, (Young Corporate, which is who he strives to be, or Young Construction), are casually in touch via Facebook. Surprisingly, I find out my YC Brother is trying is his hand at construction again, or more specifically, welding. He is taking a course to be a certified welder and wraps it up soon. I tapped a NYC contact years ago to fast track my YC Brother with a union construction job, but it took awhile to take off, and he was impatient. He left, and unfortunately, burned that connection.

But I’m optimistic. My YC Brother shows small signs of happiness, gratitude, and growing up in my handful of emails from him. I believe I got no less than five "thank-you" emails for the X-Box I sent him for his birthday. He asked for an X-Box. He is only 22 —

As is my brother in the USDB. Yes, to confirm, my brothers are twins. And yes, there is a very, very tight connection between the two, which is why my YC Brother struggled for these past years to make it on his own.

My brother in the USDB has always been the more independent, and gentle (yes, the irony of his crime, which still doesn’t fit), and stable of the two.

My USDB brother, after 18 months in the USDB, and after almost the same amount of time in County, is still actively in touch with his high-school girlfriend. I did attempt to discourage their hopes for a future together, but I give her props for standing by him all this time and still loving him. A grand testament to her character and to their relationship. She and her family visit him regularly, to this day. He talks to her weekly.

Switching subjects, he shares tidbits on prison events I reported on last year – the riot and the murder. Post riot, they put the whole general population on lock-down, and I believe they questioned no less than 40 inmates. The lead instigator, it appears, got another 40 years on top of his initial sentence.

The murder – well, he didn’t initially report it as such – so I didn’t report it as such. It was during a baseball game. A trustee inmate, who had mere months left on his sentence, was bashed to death by another with a baseball bat. I do not know why. But they no longer have baseball there.

The USDB has low crime inside its walls from my understanding, but they are not immune.

It’s about this time that the mother and son finally arrive. There are surprised greetings all around. The energy changes once again.

My brother becomes more animated and youthful again. He pulls up his chair closer to the son, a friend whom he grew up with, and the chatter turns to the Boy Scouts, adventure and travel. Meantime, the mother and I enter our own conversation.

By that afternoon, and during the second visitation time from 1PM – 4PM, the four of us attempt to play a subdued game of Taboo. My brother gets so excitable at one point that he knocks his chair over backwards, laughing, while we try to shush the boys. Mother and I are the underdogs of the game, but we catch on quick, and by the end, are holding our own as a team against the boys. It is quite fun and lively.

My brother shares that he is still cleaning offices inside the prison, but he put in a request to cut the grass outside. Silly me, I envision an old-fashioned push-mower. He clarifies – they have tractor mowers. There is a lot of grass, and fields, outside. The reward for him would be being outdoors.

It is revealed – a year later – that it was the mother who sent my brother the National Geographic subscription. He loves that magazine.

On a funny note, my brother tells us that initially fellow inmates would secretly request to read his Yoga Journal magazine I sent him. They would pretend to look at the pictures but really be interested in the articles! Now, they openly pass around the magazine. Yes, Yoga Journal. Hot commodity inside L-Pod.

I enjoyed all their company so much that I look forward to the continuation on the following day, but just as we are giving our final bear hugs during our exit, my brother asks me to only come the following afternoon. He wants time alone with the other two during the morning…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Entering Year Two

My brother enters his second year in residence at the USDB.

It’s been seven months since I wrote here. Time has passed; a lot has happened. I will give you the snapshot version.

The three men in my life that I primarily blog about have alternately given me a lot of grief over my postings here. The funny thing is not one of them has really read it. Maybe part and parcel, and they hear through word-of-mouth, but they really haven’t read it.

One moment, my brother in the USDB is sitting with me and verbally guiding me as to what I can write and should not exploit, and the next, I get a phone call that he wants it pulled down.

My Lost Brother hates his moniker, and in all fairness, it no longer suits him. He is finally finding his way, albeit slowly, but he is no longer “Lost.” After this posting, I will have to come up with another nickname for him.

My father was released to home confinement back at the top of December and is now living with my Lost Brother in Philly. My father and I have spoken only once since last August, and that phone call lasted two minutes. And you know what? I have peace in my life, and I can live with it that way.

So, here I am back, and I’m actually motivated to begin again. I will only refer to my Lost Brother and father in passing at this point and will continue logging my impressions and feelings about my brother as he heads into his second year in the USDB.

To sum up how my brother is adjusting: he is accepting and at peace. Yes, there is an irony here. How one finds peace and acceptance in prison is not the first thing that comes to mind, but that is where he is. He is starting to accept that it’s going to be a long, long time before he comes out again, so he’s taking pleasure in the small things in his day-to-day life. He is grateful.

Hey Sis, thanks for writing me letters. I know you care; I feel cared about. It’s touching… after almost three years, you’re backing me up now as much as ever. Sometimes I get to live vicariously through (your) letters… Society calls me a murderer; why do you still write me letters?
My answer is simple: I love him. To this day, I still do not fully understand what happened that fateful and horrible May eve; but no matter what, I still love him.

His latest letter to me overall was very upbeat.

He is no longer a strict vegetarian.

I’ve changed my dietary profile from vegetarian to no red meat. I feel like I’m getting the essential nutrition better. I’ve got more energy. The vegetarian thing would work better on the outside where I could eat eggplant and other nutritious foods, but here it’s mostly cabbage and quiche (like an egg pie), so I finally made the switch. I think they do fine with the budget they’ve got; you can’t please everybody.
He says he’s put on 15 pounds with this dietary shift, and not all muscle, but he was fairly lean to begin with –

…though no one fucked with me before, it’s nicer to have a little more weight around here.
Last fun bit was about him and his mates watching the Super Bowl and enjoying the game and commercials.

Some people got prison-rich around here; others might’ve lost a few Hershey bars.

Life’s good.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The USDB Under Pressure

A maximum-security riot, several lock-downs and a new Warden. My brother reports.

Sometimes the news filtering out of the USDB is sparse and intermittent. It appears part of the reason I haven’t heard from my brother for some time is because of the numerous prison lock-downs and the very recent riot that broke out in the maximum-security section of the prison. My brother is in the General Population, but the ripple effect goes through the whole system. It’s serious.

Picture a prison movie. Ironically, it was like that.

The riot took place just in the maximum-security section of the USDB, but not with those on 23-hour-a-day lock-down. It happened with the next tier of prisoner – those who are allowed to associate with three or four fellows for a limited number of hours. Supposedly, a group of these three or four prisoners overtook a guard and locked him in a cell, and they took the guard’s keys. Then, they proceeded to unlock other cellmates, until a total of 20 were rioting within the walls. They broke off table legs for weapons and used them to create barricades. SWAT was called in. One man had his ear shot off; one is in intensive care.

Order has been restored, but according to my brother, 14 of the 20 prisoners who rioted are now on “Intractable” status. For those on the inside, it’s worse than Death Row. These “Intractable” status prisoners are dressed in paper gowns and are only allowed to eat finger food now. The rumor is that they will be shipped north, to an Alaskan facility, which is better equipped than the USDB to deal with this type of maximum-security inmate.

In a word, these prisoners are f*cked.

One other incident my brother wrote about three weeks ago was a fight out in the softball field involving a baseball bat.

There was blood and a medevac helicopter had to be called in, but that’s all I know.
Even full information on the inside is tenuous.

But my brother is finally communicating again with me. There was almost a three-month lull, but when I finally did receive a letter three weeks ago, and then a handful of phone calls this weekend, I was very grateful, and relieved. I was afraid he had cut me off — making me part of that “preemptive strike” he talked about back in April — but I’m glad to report I was wrong.

His last letter was very upbeat:

I’m happy, Sis. Not boisterously happy, but a cool, collected kind of happy. I’ve got a nice little set-up here, with a couple of towels draped over some of the furniture (toilet, wall locker). It makes my room kinda cozy. Thank God we all have our own rooms, much better that way.
My brother also got a positive Observation Report written by the shift leader Sergeant in charge when my brother provided first aid to a man having a seizure in the kitchen.

He also reminisced a bit about our past times together:

When I think back to our China trip, certain parts left deeper impressions. Like when we visited that tea farm. I remember when they were giving their talk; there was a man in the background roasting the tea leaves with his bare hands. I went up to him and watched him cook the tea leaves and he looked at me, smiled and showed me his hands. His palms were wonderfully callused and had blood blisters from the heat. However, there was something beautiful about his hands, like they were the hands of a man who used them for his livelihood and was content with that. There was a natural raw beauty of the whole impression. The man laughed a little bit, said something in Chinese and went back to work.
My brother is still reading and actively studying Buddhism. He’s also now eying a job in the Library.

It's hard when I remember that he is just 21 years old.

On the other front, after a lengthy communication with my father back in July about the Probation Officers’ visit, he agreed and admitted California was absolutely “out of the question.” It was at that point, after sweating the decision for months and hours of discussion, that I officially declined my father’s appeal to head West.

I have not heard from him since.

In fact, it was the United States Post Office that informed me that my Lost Brother put in an Official Change of Address for my father’s mail just in the last week. It appears my Lost Brother, under my father’s tutelage, has leased an apartment back in Philadelphia, right back in the very zip code area I grew up! Yes, my Lost Brother has picked up right where I left off. My father is using my Lost Brother and his inheritance monies to set up shop back East, and my Lost Brother has duly sent my father a couple months’ worth of canteen money and more than two dozen Amazon books and who knows what else. My concerns about that situation, expressed this past February and March, still stand.

But it’s out of my hands. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And as my brother in the USDB reminded me, Lost Brother is an adult and will have to make his own mistakes.