Tomorrow my younger brother Yiscoc turns twenty-eight, which is something to celebrate, of course. But it’s also something in which I can see a bit of disappointment. Not only from where I sit, but from Yiscoc’s perspective as well. Of all of my siblings, none of them has done so little with so much as Yiscoc. Apparently, much of this has to do with Yiscoc’s own struggles with his adulthood, with being a part of the in-crowd, the need to be accepted and the need to be cool.
If anyone is an American-born citizen, and especially if one is Black and male, there will inevitably be struggles with this assortment of issues. Rejection because one is weird or wack is worse for some than being called the N-word by a White classmate or co-worker. Such has been the case for this particular younger brother.
Except that it didn’t start out this way. The first signs of Yiscoc’s inner restlessness began the summer of ’88, the year before my mother and his father (whom I typically call “my idiot stepfather” on this blog) separated and divorced. Yiscoc’s number one show was the Teenage Mutant Turtles, and he wanted the video game for it so badly that he would get angry when I said that I didn’t have the money to buy it, and our mother certainly didn’t either. Once the divorce happened, though, no one seemed more in need of stable family or a solid father figure than Yiscoc. And even though I came home with every summer break between ’88 and ’90, as well as during the holiday season through ’97, my presence was hardly enough.
So Yiscoc drowned his sorrows in cartoons and video games. He had a couple of friends at 616 with portable or home systems, but even that wasn’t enough. By the end of ’89, Yiscoc was stealing as many quarters as he could to go to a pizza shop in Mount Vernon or an arcade in New Rochelle to play these games. He was addicted to video games!
Yiscoc stole from me on two different occasions. Once was in July ’90. I had gotten my first paycheck that summer from my Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health job, and was parsing out the money — I assumed by myself — in the kitchen in order to pay some bills and help my mother out. Yiscoc must have seen me do it. Which was why I never noticed that he managed to sneak a $100 bill out of my wallet. My mother called me at work around 2 pm the following Monday to let me know that Yiscoc sneaked out of 616 that morning, running and grinning as my mother was yelling at him from our living room windows.
I already knew where he was. I caught the bus from White Plains to downtown Mount Vernon, got off and walked to the nearest pizza joint off Prospect and Gramatan. There he was, playing video games as if he were taking a Top Gun test with the US Navy. Even when I tried to grab him, he refused to let go of the joysticks. I literally had to drag him away from the game and the pizzeria before I could even talk to him about what he did. In all, Yiscoc had spent over $60 on some cheap portable video game, some slices of pizza, and a soda. Based on my count, almost $40 had gone into the three video games in the joint. I spanked Yiscoc off and on during our mile and a quarter walk between Prospect and Gramatan and 616.
This problem, however, was much larger than a simple discipline issue, and couldn’t be fixed by a spanking. Between ’90 and ’94, Yiscoc stole money from my mother at least once a month to feed his habit. It only stopped after he stole from me again in ’94 — even though I had my wallet under my pillow! After I tracked him down in New Rochelle, I said to him that if he pulled this again, I’d press charged and have him locked up, at least for one night.
Bottom line was that Yiscoc needed friends, the kind of friends where he could meet their families. After the fire at 616 in April ’95, that’s what Yiscoc began to do. He used his four years in high school to develop his drop-in clique — a group of Black guys he hung out with, cut classes with, and occasionally attended classes with. By the beginning of ’01, after four years of high school, he was the equivalent of a 10 and a half grader. With a bit more than a year and half left before graduating from Mount Vernon High School, Yiscoc officially dropped out. His rationale was that he could get his GED, then get a part-time job and somehow parlay it into a career in entertainment, as a songwriter or singer or something.
Since ’01, he’s taken the GED exam four times, and failed the GED exam four times. The area of the exam that’s given him the most trouble: social studies! I’m the only academically trained historian he knows, and yet he’s NEVER asked me for help. Unbelievable! In the meantime, he’s managed to get in a bit of a fix with the law, been in several interesting relationships with older women, worked his way into the karaoke circuit, and otherwise working off and on at some slightly-above minimum wage jobs. It would’ve been so nice if Yiscoc had been at 616 for my family intervention seven years ago. It would’ve given both of us an opportunity to vent and to find common ground. It could’ve given him the kick in the pants he needed to move forward with his life. I just hope Yiscoc finds his way, and right soon too.