'I Just Needed Help.' How 2 Brothers Opened Up To Forge A Bond In Adulthood

Jan 31, 2020
Originally published on January 31, 2020 12:23 pm

Derrick Storms and his little brother Raymond grew up in southern Florida in a troubled, at times unstable, home.

When they were in high school, their mother died of cancer.

The brothers didn't really have each other, either. Derrick held a lot of anger and tormented Raymond.

"I just remember you being so cruel," Raymond told Derrick.

In a conversation at StoryCorps this month, the two sat down to talk about how they reclaimed their relationship.

Derrick would play malicious tricks on him, Raymond said.

"Like, telling me one day that kids really can fly, but you have to really trust. So we went on that rickety swing set, and I remember you pushing me, saying, 'Now jump, and think of a happy thought.' "

Raymond remembers shouting out his answer — "pizza!" — before falling into their mom's rosebush.

"And your response to me was, 'Oh, because you're so fat, you should have said two happy thoughts,' " Raymond, 36, said.

Derrick, 39, says he was "really at war with the world."

"I didn't know if I would ever be close to anybody," he said.

The brothers pursued completely different paths. Raymond went to art school and sang opera. Derrick enlisted in the Marines out of high school.

Raymond says their relationship started to shift when the family found out Derrick would deploy to Iraq in 2003, just as the U.S.-led invasion was starting.

Their grandmother pushed Raymond to reach out to his brother. So, he called Derrick.

"And you were like, 'What?' and she was looking at me with those dark eyes, and I was like, all right, I'm gonna say something vulnerable. And I said I was always envious of you as a kid. And you were, like, so quiet," Raymond said.

Derrick's response, Raymond said, was "I've always been jealous of you. Everyone wants to be your best friend, and I scare people."

Just before Derrick's battalion arrived in Nasiriyah, where U.S. troops were pinned down and facing sniper fire, Derrick asked a reporter nearby if he could borrow his global cellphone to make a call. He wanted to talk to his brother.

"I think when you're faced with your mortality, I began to take the meaningful things in my life more seriously," he said.

Raymond was in music school studying opera when he got the call.

"You literally were like, 'The Marines here don't believe you're gonna be the next Pavarotti. Show 'em! Show 'em! Sing the national anthem,' " Raymond recalled.

So Raymond put his vocal training into practice. "They went ballistic," he said.

He noticed that Derrick's aggressive demeanor had dramatically changed. He was kinder. "It was like night and day," Raymond said.

Raymond never thought he and Derrick would ever have the close relationship that they have today.

"You were walking rage. There was so much anger that I had towards you as a child," he told Derrick. "But I'm grateful for it now, because I forged that into this white hot steel of love."

"I guess I just needed help," Derrick said. "You need somebody kind of showing you the way. You know, that lighthouse to help you cross over."

His younger brother was that somebody.

"I'm thankful for you for that," Derrick told Raymond.

Raymond says it's been unbelievable watching his brother grow into a more caring person. Derrick now runs a law practice in New York City. Raymond has a business practicing healing arts, including reiki.

"Seeing you bloom into this like, sensitive, loving human being, there's no way someone could tell me like miracles don't exist," he said.

"It feels a lot better on this side, that's for sure," Derrick said.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Camila Kerwin

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Today on StoryCorps, Derrick Storms and his brother Raymond grew up in a troubled home in Florida. They coped with it very differently. Derrick tormented Raymond, and then eventually he joined the military. Raymond became an opera singer.

RAYMOND STORMS: How would you describe us as kids?

DERRICK STORMS: Complete opposites.

R STORMS: (Laughter).

D STORMS: Everybody liked you. You know, you would be talking to the elderly neighbor up the street. I was getting in trouble blowing up mailboxes.

R STORMS: I just remember you being so cruel, like, telling me one day that kids really can fly but you have to really trust. So we went on that rickety swing set, and I remember you pushing me, saying, now jump and think of a happy thought. And I screamed out pizza. And I (laughter) I fell into mom's rosebush. And your response to me was, oh, because you're so fat, you should have said two happy thoughts.

D STORMS: I was really at war with the world. I didn't know if I would ever be close to anybody.

R STORMS: I feel like our relationship started to shift when we found out that you were going to be deployed to Iraq. And I remember grandma making me call you. And you were like, what? And she was looking at me with those dark eyes. And I was like, all right, I'm going to say something vulnerable. And I said I was always envious of you as a kid. And you were, like, so quiet. You said I've always been jealous of you. Everyone wants to be your best friend, and I scare people.

D STORMS: I think when you're faced with your mortality, I began to take the meaningful things in my life more seriously. I remember we were just getting ready to go into Nasiriyah (ph), and a reporter had a global cellphone. And I said, do you mind if I make a call on that?

R STORMS: At that time, I was in music school for opera. And you literally were like the Marines here don't believe you're going to be the next Pavarotti. Show them, show them. Sing the national anthem. And they were like [expletive] sing, who-ha (ph), who-ha. And I remember just starting to sing (singing) oh, say can - just starting to sing the national anthem. And they went ballistic. It was like night and day.

D STORMS: Did you ever think we'd be close?

R STORMS: No, you were walking rage. There was so much anger that I had towards you as a child. But I'm grateful for it now because I forged that into this white, hot steel of love.

D STORMS: I guess I just needed help (laughter). You need somebody kind of showing you the way, you know, that lighthouse to help you cross over. I'm thankful for you for that.

R STORMS: Seeing you bloom into this, like, sensitive loving human being, there's no way someone could tell me, like, miracles don't exist.

D STORMS: It feels a lot better on the side, that's for sure.

KING: That was Derrick Storms and his brother Raymond Storms, and their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.