Life with a Brother Behind Bars

Life with a Brother Behind Bars

By: Ramona Villegas

When the officers first took my older brother to jail, I was 10, and he was around 14. After getting out, each time, something else would happen to where he would go back again with the most recent arrest, which was three years ago, my brother, sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

Although not ideal, my two brothers and I had to cope the only ways we knew how. 

I not once have thought any less of my brother for being in prison since I have never been in his shoes. 

At first I was angry, but out of selfishness because it felt as if there was no one left that was there to protect me. Then, I felt the pressure on my shoulders to be my little brother’s protector. 

After the initial arrest, there was a sense of priority in knowing that my little brother was now looking up to me. During school, I was constantly striving to be the best example I could for my younger brother and be a genuine, honest, and ethical human, all while trying to learn more about myself daily and practicing emotional maturity; yes, I am still working on it. 

Thanks to the pressure I put on myself to create an example of another path, I graduated high school 17th out of 2,524 students. I am also currently a junior in college and beyond grateful for the stroke of luck life has given me. 

Recently, I do not feel that pressure the way I used to since now I understand that somone is going to chose the way they would like life their live regarless of how you live yours. In the beggining stages of the pressure being released there was a sense of failer in the fact that potentally I did not do well by my younger brother; although I felt as if I have and will continue to do so.

Life after my brother’s sentencing to 15 years has been more than complicated. I try not to think about every “what if” that wants to run through my head. Every day I wake up, I remember how grateful I am to be in the position I am in today. 

In light of being a hormonal 20-year-old, attending college, and working two jobs, I still feel guilty when I wake up on an extra sunny morning with the light shining through the window. The birds chirping oddly loudly near my window, knowing that my brother will not be able to have a similar experience for a very long time. 

I often think about my older brother and how he and I grew up in the same environment, so I ask myself, why him and not me? 

In the sense that what started it all was one suggestion from someone, why did no one make such a suggestion to me? Unfortunately, I have to be okay with all my unanswered questions, and one day I might get an answer. 

It has been like living with feelings of guilt for the last few years. At first, I did not realize what all these vast feelings were, and once I expressed those feelings to someone, I could pinpoint exactly why I was feeling that way. 

I do not wish those feelings on anyone.

My brother constantly asks me not to forget he exists even though I send him letters often, and I tell him I think about him more than anyone else. 

If you have someone who is currently imprisoned, there are plenty of people who understand exactly what you are experiencing. It tends to be the most beautiful thing’s that I stop and wish my brother could see the beautiful things life offers, not just me, but everyone else too. 

Through his time in my brother’s imprisonment, my grandma Gloria “Gogo” has been my rock through learning who I am, loving appropriately, and forgiving. 

I’ll leave you with a quote that Gogo constantly reminds me of: “You are the architect of your own life.” -Henry Thomas Hamblin. 

Leave a Reply