Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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I guess I was about thirteen when life really began confronting me. That was about the time when I had my firstborn son, Danny. My so-called family threw me out to be on my own when I had told them about my son. I never really felt much like family to them anyway; I always felt more like a burden to them than anything else. I was pretty much ignored by them my whole life. To them I was only a responsibility, nothing more. I always thought of them as my babysitters. I always said that things would be different in my family; that I would do anything and everything to show my devotion to them. All my life I have searched for a family like this. Besides my son, the only other person whom I ever regarded as family was a hooligan known as Vinny Bruno; whom which I considered more of a father than my own.

As a kid I always looked up to Vinny. I was aware of his gangster-life ways, yet I still viewed him as a god. I would sometimes watch him talking business with his henchmen from my East Side L.A. stoop and I would try to imitate his speech and his actions. He once glanced at me as I did this and gave a smile. That smile was the first sign of affection that I have ever received from anyone. Then one day I saw Bruno kill this man who was responsible for the death of one of his henchman. At first, I didn't know what to think of this. Since Vinny was my idol, I refused to see that he had done anything wrong. I kept trying to justify what Vinny did. I remembered how Vinny would always refer to his henchmen as family. So I excused Vinny's wrongdoing from my mind. I said that Vinny was just getting revenge for his family. I myself said that I would do anything for my son. I felt that Vinny and I were alike. Vinny really cared for his family. That's when I realized how much I'd love to be a part of that family. The police were looking for a witness who could help identify the killer. There were many other witnesses other than me, but of course, no one would admit to have seen Vinny Bruno committing a murder. So they all said that I was believed to have seen the whole thing. The police some how made me admit that I had witnessed the murder and they asked me if I could identify the killer from a line-up. When they came to Vinny and asked me if he was the killer I stared him straight in the eye and said, "No it wasn't him." Vinny, again, gave me that same kindly smile. Ever since then Vinny and I became best of friends.

Vinny soon found out that I was living on the street and so he offered to take me into his family, along with Danny. At first I was reluctant to accept his generous offer, because I now had Danny and I didn't want us to live a life of crime. But I considered our options and realized there was no alternative. I couldn't let my son and I live on the streets. Besides, I knew that Vinny would take good care of us as he did with all of his people. So I accepted his offer.

When I was eighteen I became Vinny's right hand man and helped run his criminal organization. Vinny took good care of me and always swore to protect me with his life. We had an understanding now that we were family and we understood all the guidelines that go along with being family. He told me that once we're family there's no getting out. I found that funny since I have gotten out of my so-called family. Those years were the best of my life. I thought I had finally found the family that I had missed out on throughout my childhood. Danny was now about five and was well taken care of. I was glad that I was able to provide as much as I could for him. I knew that I owed it all to Vinny. Although, I wish that I didn't have to sell Vinny's drugs to support him, but like I said I'd doing for my son. That's what this family was about. We did anything for each other. I once told Vinny that if anything ever happened to me that he would have to promise me to take care of Danny. He said, "Of course, we're family right?" "Right," I said.

When I was nineteen I got busted for selling dope by an undercover officer. He gave me a choice. I could have either faced five years in prison or turn in Vinny Bruno and serve no term. I knew I couldn't turn Vinny in because he was now part of my family, but I wouldn't be able to see Danny for five years and he is also part of my family. I chose the five years. When I got to prison I came across my cellmate. I did As for me, things are now different between my son and I. We're a real family now, and not just because of my utter devotion to him. He is part of my family because he is the force that allows my heart to pump blood, filling my veins with life. He is what keeps me alive, and to me, that is the true meaning of family