Got my brother's Navy boot camp graduation photo in a little letter from my grams yesterday. What a handsome sailor. And I'd like to say that, no matter how convinced he is he's not as smart as I say he is, he scored the absolute top on his exams, out of everyone in his class.

He sent me an email on Monday. I wrote him back entirely too much.

That kid. No one will ever know what that kid had to overcome to get to where he is, or how badly he scared the shit out of me, so many times. It's reminded me that I need to get my head on straight about what's waiting for me back home, and give up this thing about not going back for a visit anytime soon. I gotta go home this summer to meet my new baby nephew, when he comes.

When I was thinking of coming here, that kid was the only one who mustered the exact right words to make me realize that it was okay, and I shouldn't be scared. He reminded me how fucking crazy everyone thought I was, going around when I was growing up talking about how, someday, I was going to move to New York. He told me then, you're the only one who managed to make it out -- all the rest of us talk shit all the time about plans for the future, making shit better for ourselves, but you're the only one who actually managed to do it.

It's not the truth anymore, though. I always knew he'd manage to find a way to make something of himself -- too, too smart and determined and driven not to. It's like one of my professors used to say about me -- it's just as, if not more, true for him: Your will is not the problem. You just have to get your will pointed in the right direction.

It makes me think really hard about how much has changed over the last few years. Of all the boys from the old neighborhood, half are dead, and the other half in jail. God only knows where some of them ended up. But my brother did what he had to do and got himself out of that mess, no matter how hard it was.

I love that boy to death. And I'm so proud of him, I could just melt into a puddle on the floor. And it reminds me that I've got to keep working, keep moving forward in life. Keep doing my part to make this generation of our family the first to be successful, happy, secure, and well-loved. Never be satisfied. Always keep pushing for better. So that little baby that's on the way doesn't have to face the things me and my brother did, just like my ma worked hard to get us as far away from how she grew up as she could, and my grandparents before her.

Suddenly, I remember sitting in the diner with Grover a few years back. Talking about the class struggle, in that general way we had of doing. Grover was like finding a little piece of home in that insane community of pure bastards at art school. We were on our third or fourth cup of coffee, when suddenly she launched into this monologue about marrying a partner, buying a house, settling down and raising kids. She said, we don't think like that -- you and me. The way we learned to think was, hell no I'm not bringing another life into this shit. We never thought we could have those things. But we've got to cut that out, stop cutting ourselves off from the things we should have in life. It's so automatic. That's why we talk so tough about marriage and kids, about staying on the move. About art.

But we're not our parents. And we don't have to be afraid of trying, of taking everything that we want from life. And we don't have to apologize for it.

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