This was painful and difficult to write, and once written, I wrestled with posting it. No one’s family is perfect, and there’s hardwired Asian shame about making the family look bad, but I had to share this and unravel it. I think I’m going to have to write on some lighter, less fraught topics soon, or I will risk losing my small audience. I don’t want to bring people down or give the perception I’m perpetually gloomy.

I have 3 brothers. We’re not very close- 2 live on different islands in Hawai’i, and one lives in California, and is 18 years my senior.

I have a brother I haven’t seen since 2006.The last time before that was 2002, I think.

He’s 2 years younger than me. He was into gangbanging like  lot of the kids in my neighborhood, and got deep in to hard drugs. He was homeless at one point, and I suspect he still is, if he is alive. He was in and out of jail for various nonviolent crimes. No one has been in contact with him. The last time I talked to him, he said he had a medical condition and needed money for something. I asked the name of his parole officer and doctor so I could confirm this. He flipped out, as druggies do, because everyone is against them, and who told me lies about him? I persisted. He stopped returning my messages.

The purpose of this isn’t to air my family’s dirty laundry. It’s his birthday. Maybe this will somehow reach him.

He was smart. He kept his toys in their original packaging. He constructed elaborate ziplines and lego structures for action figures. He would rewire remote controlled cars to make them go faster. He had the mind of an engineer, but not the self-discipline to get himself there.

When he was a teenager, his playfullness turned into a violent streak which was frightening. I sometimes felt unsafe with him in the house. He would share tales of brutality, about maiming other children, which he would laugh off. He was sadistic and cruel, to all except small children and animals.

I google him every few months, and occasionally see a new mugshot. In each one he is more sallow and gaunt than the previous, like he’s in a self-imposed Auschwitz. His eyes are vacant. He smirks. He is a bitter ghost haunting his own mirror. He has a daughter who is now a teenager growing up without a father to protect her and help her navigate this dangerous, confusing time. He is a visual reminder of “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Happy Birthday. Give Dad a call.


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