The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2017

All Issues
MAR 2017 Issue

Baby of the Family:
Love Lost, But Not Forgotten

Ed.'s note: The following is a true story.


I once lived a lawless childhood of flawless wonder. To a child at play everything is for the taking, tasting and experiencing. The world is up for grabs. There are no barriers or consequences in a child’s imagination.

My older but smaller brother was my part-time guide and teacher. He introduced to the world of nature and the world of adults. He was my translator and protector. He taught me how to survive the anger and hatred that haunted our parents and poisoned our lives.

I was more successful than he at social stealth and tracking moods, camouflaging with conformity. Ronnie seemed more unwilling than unable to give up his sense of self for momentary respite from parental aggression and insanity. Time and again it cost him dearly, eventually his young life.

Existence in our home was living on a knife edge. Loving parents could snap without warning and go on an emotional rampage of brutal beatings, mostly directed at Little Ronnie, while I cowered and looked on in silent horror.

Yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. Defensive and violent, our parents’ inner-child struck at us for all the neglect and abuse they suffered as small, defenseless children.

They too once lived a lawless childhood of flawless wonder. But neither of our parents had an older brother to be their part-time guide and teacher, their translator and protector in the world of adults.

Neither did Ronnie. He only had me, his big baby brother, which is probably why I’m the only one of us four who has survived and didn’t attempt suicide.

Fate allowed me to be there to save my father from his despair. But I wasn’t able to be there for either my mother or Ronnie when they became lost in their heart’s darkest night.

Now, in the autumn of my years, I sit longing for those days of lawless childhood and flawless wonder, wishing I could have been Ronnie’s, Mom’s and Dad’s part­-time guide and teacher; their translator and protector in the world of adults.

Left behind to mourn, tortured and tormented, restored and redeemed by Love lost but not forgotten, I sit flawless in lawless wonder.


Douglas Scott Mickey

DOUGLAS SCOTT MICKEY has been on death row at San Quentin since 1983.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2017

All Issues