The narrator is estranged from his brother in the beginning of the story, unable to relate to the decisions Sonny has made as he's grown into adulthood. He recalls that when Sonny was the age of the students he now teaches, "his face had been bright and open . . . he'd had wonderfully direct brown eyes, and great gentleness and privacy." Yet Sonny has just been picked up in a heroin raid, and the narrator begins to explain how he has distanced himself from his brother ever since graduating high school and leaving for the military.
After his own daughter dies, the narrator reaches out for the first time in a long time. Sonny replies, telling him that he'd needed to hear from his brother for so long but also knows that he has caused great him great pain. So he has just avoided reaching out at all, trying to figure out "how I got here" alone.
In the end, the narrator learns to simply listen to Sonny. He really hears him as he describes his inner turmoil:
Don't worry. I'm all right now and I...
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