His Brother's Keeper

How the Internet brought together two half-brothers for the first time

All they had to go on was that the boy, born Ronald, went by “RJ.” RJ had received death benefits from their late father through Social Security, just like Ryan; Rice and the Lanes asked the federal agency to help locate Ron, but nothing ever came of it.

Ryan has done his own Internet snooping over the years, and this past January, he zeroed in on a Kingman security officer he believed might be Ron’s current stepfather. He was. That led Ryan to Deena’s MySpace page, the discovery that “RJ” was now Ronald Joseph Lane and, finally, Ron’s MySpace page.

Ryan sent Ron a message saying hello, but he did not mention their common father. When a return message did not come back right away, Ryan didn’t know what to think.

Jeanne Rice
Ryan and Ron set out for life together
Jeanne Rice
Ryan and Ron set out for life together

“What if they tell us to leave them alone?” he remembers thinking. “That, fortunately, was not the case.”

A friend request from Ron was waiting in Ryan’s MySpace inbox the next day. Included was this message: “Call me.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ryan says.

*     *     *

The bus is about to pull in, and Ryan is talking about the Lane brothers’ first phone conversation. They yakked for two hours and discovered they had a lot in common—like similar, sarcastic senses of humor—and a lot not in common.

Ryan is an athlete and driven community-college student preparing to transfer to a four-year university.

Ron dropped out of high school and is content working at a media store he says is frequented by meth-heads and hanging out with his closest friends making fun of the customers. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in flamboyance.

That is evident as the brothers lock eyes for the first time at the bus station. Ron’s hair, which is usually blond like Ryan’s, is dyed candy-apple red. A bright-blue ball pierces his tongue. He is not giving off the jock vibe—indeed, just the opposite.

Their first embrace is as awkward as you’d expect from two strangers being watched by another stranger with a notepad.

They are also self-conscious about Rice shooting every moment of it, with the noise from her camera’s automatic winder leading fellow bus-station denizens to falsely believe they are in the presence of celebrities. Her boyfriend, Shane Frederickson, is also capturing every moment on a Flip video camera.

By the time everyone piles into cars for the ride back to Costa Mesa, tears are streaming down Rice’s face.

She’s dreamed about this for a very long time.

*     *     *

With Ryan back behind the wheel, now going southbound on the 5, Ron mentions how when he was 8, his mother told him he had a brother; she had just split up with the man Ron had believed was his natural father.

He holds no animosity toward Deena for this, saying a young boy probably would not have understood the nuances between a father and stepfather anyway.

Ron calls the way he learned about Ryan reaching out to him “really weird—and funny.”

Deena is a medical biller at Kingman Regional Medical Center, and she called Ron from work one day in January, after Ryan had e-mailed her.

“She started talking about my brother, something we had not discussed for quite some time, but she was speaking in code, trying not to air her personal business at work,” Ron recalls. “And I didn’t know what she was talking about.”

The next day, they met for lunch, and she showed him a printout of Ryan’s e-mail; Ron then went to a computer to request Ryan as a MySpace friend.

“My mom is genuinely happy for me,” he says, noting that she has also invited Ryan to stay with them in Kingman.

“The whole thing has been intense,” Ron says as Ryan merges onto the 55. “We just kind of went from zero to 60.”

He says of Ryan, “Nothing against him, but this was something that was not bothering me. It was not nagging at me. I was completely fine. I guess I thought, ‘If it happens, it happens.’ But once it did happen, I would not change a thing.”

*     *     *

On the eve of his return to Kingman, Ron is reflecting on what he calls his “mini-vacation.”

In between sips of coffee under an umbrella at the South Coast Plaza Borders store, he recalled the first night’s small, informal reunion with Ronald Lane Sr.’s side of the family—including Aunt Stefani—at Boomers in Irvine.

The following days included watching the Newport Regatta and one of Ryan’s early-morning crew practices; doing some charity work together; and visiting Disneyland, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and—Ron’s highlight—South Coast Plaza.

All packed into five short days.

“It’s been very surreal,” he says.

Sitting next to him, Ryan mentions how he had work and school during most of their short time together. In fact, he left Disneyland to man a shift, and then returned to the theme park to catch up with his brother.

For years, when people would ask Ryan if he had any siblings, he would just answer no because explaining the truth would take too long.

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