My Brother Is Homeless
And I don’t know how to save him.
I’ve written about my oldest brother before, but in sum: His name is Donnie and he’s an alcoholic. And a drug addict. And homeless.
A few weeks ago, my mom was driving to the grocery store in New Jersey when she noticed someone familiar walking along the highway. He was wearing red shorts, no top, and was carrying a black bag. As she got closer she realized it was my brother, her eldest stepson. Unable to pull over and unsure of his mental state, she called my dad to let him know. Everyone assumed Donnie was either on his way to our shore house or to his brother David’s house (less than a mile apart). But everyone was wrong. After days of not seeing him, David learned that Donnie had been sleeping on the beach.
It’s kinda weird to hear a story like this about a family member. A man walking along the highway, barely clothed, sleeping on the beach. Almost every day I walk past a homeless person on the streets of New York and think, “How did they get there? Where’s their family?” And now I wonder how many people saw my brother and thought the same thing.
It’s very simple for me to close off any feelings for Donnie. He’s over 20 years older than me (my dad started “playing house” pretty early) and he’s always been in and out of the picture. In when he needs something. Out when he’s flying high. The stereotypical rambling man, or prodigal son. I owe him nothing and he owes me nothing. We simply share half a bloodline.
Hell, I remember the time when he showed up to one of my high school basketball games. He walked into the swankiest prep school in Philadelphia covered in tattoos and beer gut in full force, just to embarrass me (at least that’s what I thought at the time). I swear one of my teammates actually asked what the homeless dude was doing there. Just the way Peter denied Christ, I wanted to deny my brother more than three times. And just last summer, I made fun of the fact that he was selling french fries on the boardwalk. A grown man working a minimum-wage job that high school kids do for the summer? O-M-G. Soo em-barr-ass-ing. We are so not related.