She left the job five months later. However, four months after that she'd had it with sitting around the house. "If you don't want my claw marks on the wall," she told her sons, "you won't be mad when I go back to work."
Neither was surprised. Easy isn't something Geraldine is good at. Easy is for other people. Geraldine's father, Army Maj. Willie T. Brickhouse Jr., died in a helicopter crash while on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam in 1967, days before her 15th birthday. Ten years later J.B. left her and the twins to fend for themselves. Geraldine answered by punching the clock as a transcriptionist at an office suite, as a receptionist at a hospital and as a tracker for an inventory company. She also earned a master's degree in business. For years she averaged four hours of sleep a night. She would go to the boys' games and have dinner with them, but she rarely put them to bed. Babysitters usually did that. "I remember crying sometimes, because you want your mom, and she's not there," Tiki says.
"But she never made it seem like we were struggling," Ronde says. "She never put it on us, you know? If we did something wrong, she was there to punish us, but as far as school and studies and all that stuff went, she never told us we had to do well. It was just implied."
In 1996, when Tiki and Ronde were starting their senior season at Virginia, Geraldine was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she underwent a double mastectomy. As she endured months of chemotherapy, she discouraged the boys from visiting. "When I was going through chemo, my doctor scheduled my treatments so that I could get through the down period before their next game," says Geraldine. "I never missed a game."
"My mom has never asked Ronde and me for anything," Tiki says. "I can do a single appearance and make more than she does in a year, but she doesn't ask for anything. She's a private person. Her whole life has been, 'Learn to live with it. You put yourself in your own situation, you can get yourself out of it.' That was especially the case after J.B. left. My mother is the reason we turned out the way we did. She gave us our independence early, and she taught us make our own choices."
Not long after turning pro, the brothers bought a house for Geraldine in one of the most beautiful areas of Roanoke County. The house is nestled close to Bent Mountain. If she leaves the blinds open when she turns in at night, Geraldine wakes up to the sight of the mountain, so close it seems she can reach through the window and wrap her hands around it. The brothers also bought her a $70,000 Mercedes. Still, she went back to work, as a budget administrator for the county of Roanoke.
"To me, our lives have already happened," Ronde says. "I don't mean spiritually. But sometimes when I'm looking at a picture of someone's life—like Tiger Woods playing golf—it feels as if it's already happened and I'm watching a highlight film. It's the same way with Tiki and me. They go to Virginia, they're successful. They get in the league, they struggle, now they're successful. We're living it, but it's as though it already happened."
"Right," Tiki says. "During my second year as a pro, when I was struggling, when I wondered if they were going to run me out of New York, even men I never thought I'd fail. I knew I would be successful."
Suppose one of the brothers had made it and the other had not? "This is going to sound cocky..." says Tiki.
"... but that was never an option," says Ronde.