Sunday, January 13, 2008

This (Autistic) Life

I have vowed never to capitalize on my brother's disability. I am in no way entitled. I hope I do not offend anyone with this post, particularly my references to "normal" which we all know is a nebulous concept. But I was driving to work the other day, and thinking about how my Autistic brother has made me who I am today, and I found tears streaming down my face. I have recently met a new friend with an Autistic son, it is lovely to know her, and to perhaps see what my mum went through when I was too young to remember. My first memories of my brother was that he was a beautiful child. I went out on an image search to try to find a picture as beautiful as he was, but noone came near, and then I remembered the little boy in the movie Kolya who was impossibly sweet and innocent. He was like that.

I am three years older than him, so I remember waiting for him to learn to talk. We waited and waited. I remember him saying a few little words/phrases, but they disappeared somehow. People kept on telling us about children they knew who didn't talk until they were 3,4,5... By this time I was old enough to be on my parents journey too. I kept on hoping, along with them, as each milestone passed, that he would soon make a developmental leap.

I think he taught me to be in for the long haul, and somehow to cope with disappointment. Hoping and praying will not make it happen.

Soon we realised this was not going to happen, then my focus shifted, he became my project I was determined that he would be as normal as possible. I took him around with my friends. I made sure he never wore dorky clothes or got a dorky haircut, or had greasy hair. I stood up for him when people teased him. I taught him to swim, to ride a bicycle...

Through it all though, he threw me into sharp contrast. When he was being naughty, I was super-good. When he failed, I succeeded spectacularly.

I think subconciously both my older brother and I had to make it up to our parents somehow.

And then I moved out of the project phase. For a while I think I forgot about him. My life got interesting. I met my first boyfriend, I left home to go to University, and so did my brother. This must've been a sad time for him.

He left home too, and has since then lived in a very lovely sheltered community.

Having opined in an earlier post that I have been looking for my father in the men I hook up with, another possibility has often occured to me. That I am actually looking for a younger brother. I have never been out with anyone older than me, and my partners are often, at some level projects they are little, defenceless, inadequate, and

I am the archetypal older sister out to defend, protect and heal them.

Recently he has had health difficulties having at 36 the first ever seisure of his life. Suddenly I am his big sister again, wanting to rush to his side, defend him, deny there is anything wrong, to make him normal

I never dared to stop and think what it would've been like to have a normal younger brother. Imagine, handsome, successful, intelligent, with a family of his own. Someone who would visit me, maybe overtly look up to me in some way (rather than tacitly). What a gift it would be. Maybe finally I am mourning the loss of that man. Maybe that was what the tears were about.

But the man that he is has made me the woman I am today, maybe more compassionate, maybe more succesful but perhaps most importantly able to love people who give almost nothing back.

1 comment:

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I know my daughter wants things from her autistic brother that he is not able to give her, but I know he is also giving her things no one else can. And she is giving him things no one else can too.