My Brother, Myself She Was a Harvard Law Student; He Was Nothing but Trouble. or So She Once Thought

By Dickerson, Debra | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 7, 1995 | Go to article overview

My Brother, Myself She Was a Harvard Law Student; He Was Nothing but Trouble. or So She Once Thought


Dickerson, Debra, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


MY BROTHER got in trouble at work again. There's nothing unusual about that, though. Management finds him very unsettling, partly for the same reasons that most people would: He's large, easily angered, and black. But also because, even though he's poorly educated, he has a startling ability to home in on the truth and reduce "educated" people to a resentful silence.

Bobby is 32. I honestly never thought he'd live to see 20, and I used to tell him so.

Once, I'd come home carrying a newly cleaned black dress. I found that, as usual, he'd made a mess and eaten most of the food I'd cooked for the family's dinner. He called me a bitch, as usual, when I chastised him.

I thrust the black dress at him like a subpoena or a tarot card signifying his imminent demise.

"I think I'll wear this one to your funeral," I informed him calmly. "I may be a bitch, but you're no good."

For about five years, I would not speak to my brother beyond what was necessary to convey my vast disdain for him. Only our mother treated him like a relative. Or tried to. The rest of us, his five older sisters, pretty much hated him.

He spent those years getting expelled and arrested. Hanging with gold-toothed, gutter-mouthed crotch-clutchers named like Spike Lee characters: Doo-man, Cool Rob, Packy, Manky. He would disappear for days at a time, then reappear bruised and bloody-faced just in time to ruin holiday dinners and make everyone miserable with his self-absorbed animality. He disgusted me.

Then, about 10 years ago, when he was about 21, I invited him to live with me. He'd calmed down but was still living off Mama and not letting sporadic, dead-end employment keep him from his true calling as a professional dope smoker. He was less a pig but, still, I had no respect for him. I invited him to Maryland, where I worked for the National Security Agency.

I'll bet he was surprised. But I had a plan. I took him in to prove to our mother that no amount of support and investment in him would pay off. I did it to get him away from her. To keep her away from him, bail bondsmen and emergency rooms. I was undertaking an unpleasant duty, throwing myself on the grenade. I had no intention of learning to love him. But it happened. Two Former Strangers

When I think of my plan now, I can't help thinking back to Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis, where the old folks would cackle when we sang:

Dig one ditch

you better dig two

Cause the trap you set

just might be for you.

When my brother came to Maryland, I greeted him with a long list of rules and "things I would not tolerate." It was basically the same spiel I used when my nephew, then 7 years old, visited. Bobby just nodded and looked away.

He'd driven in at about 4:30 a.m. By 8 a.m., he was out job-hunting, and by the end of the day had not one but two.

I waited for him to fail. I waited for him to steal from my purse or pawn my TV set so I could pass him on to the next sister in line. I waited for him to get arrested so I could pointedly not bail him out as efficiently specified in my house rules. But somehow he never acknowledged or reacted to my disapproving scrutiny. He wouldn't play the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Game with me. He just took it.

Magically, somehow, we ended up sitting at my kitchen table drinking beer and eating popcorn into the small hours. Talking, talking, talking, as my long-lost brother told me the story of his life.

We might have been two strangers chatting in a waiting room for all we'd known of each other.

He told me screamingly funny stories of taunting the cops, his misadventures with women, street-corner hoops. I was mesmerized. I was a good girl. I had never, ever hung out on the streets, and this was a window onto a whole new world for me.

Bobby made me laugh until I thought I'd hyperventilate, but what I most remember are the heartbreaking stories he told, completely devoid of self-pity or rationalization. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

My Brother, Myself She Was a Harvard Law Student; He Was Nothing but Trouble. or So She Once Thought
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.