“Family is not about blood. It is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it most.” While reading this quote from Arjun Sathwara, I thought about how I was raised and the family I was brought up in. I’m not related to any of the people who raised me by any means but that doesn’t mean that we are not a family. They gave me a home, a loving family and pets as far back as I can remember. I grew up in a simple four-person family with my mom, my dad, and older brother. The thing about having a sibling is that you never know what kind of personality is going to work for you and which one is going to work against you. Even before being diagnosed, I knew my brother and I were going to be close friends. Sure, as with every sibling relationship, there are ups and downs that make up what that bond will look like. Having a sibling, to me, is one of the greatest experiences I’ve known. My brother has always been someone I aspired to and admired as well.
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Kerr has been quoted with this lovely phrase, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Here’s why that connects to me and my relationship with my brother. When I was younger, I was adopted into the family I know today. It has always been something I knew but didn’t grasp until later in my life. Family isn’t always made in blood, sometimes it ends up being the people you choose to surround yourself with. At first, it wasn’t all good and loving. There were plenty of issues and communication barriers that had to be overcome in time and understanding. When we were younger, our parents allowed us to write what we wanted without consequences; however, if we wanted to say those things out loud, there would be repercussions for not only our words but the actions that followed. I don’t remember much of those and even if I did, they weren’t very kind letters at the start. Two kids who were learning how to live together when the first kid was probably fine doing things alone but to add another child to the mix was all too much. Once we got through those differences, however, everything seemed to be moving a bit better.
Sure, we had our issues and there were plenty of times where I would protect him as much as he would protect me. There was this one incident that is very close to my heart that I remember clearly. Our parents had gone out on a date night and left my brother and I home alone. He decided to cut my bangs for the first time, and it wasn’t in good taste according to our parents. I wish I had a picture of that to share but of course, I don’t. I lied to my mom about how it happened for nearly a week to save my brother from getting hurt. I continued to lie to her about it for what could be considered a long time in a child’s mind.
My brother and I always had vivid imaginations growing up. My brother played knights of the round table with me for days on end. We would pretend to be going to different spots in the town and it was always enjoyable because I would almost feel like I was there. At night, we would do these make-believe stories and my brother always led them. They never made a lot of sense, but they felt like home to me. When my mom recorded the audios, they were on cassette tapes. I remember I still had one of the audio tapes of the squirrel as a wizard story because hearing someone familiar’s voice always comforted me.
When he was in high school, there was always a group of older people at our house constantly. My mom referred to them as “robobabies” which made me laugh. To explain, they were on the robotics team together and they made robots for competitions. It was always fun to listen to the stories and the advanced mathematics they would talk about in front of an elementary student. I didn’t get along well with one of the guys my brother brought home. It wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t get along with them, I didn’t know how to get along with them. When we started sharing our interests, that’s when things made a bit more sense to me and changed the dynamic of how things were when he came over. The friend always ended up spinning me around like I was nothing more than a child at the time and honestly, to him, I probably was. It was a time when I didn’t get told to leave them alone as I would sit in on their discussions and listen. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but it was always fun to know that I was learning something beyond my age. We would play video games together and celebrate their achievements with Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
I don’t think I realized how important my brother was until he moved off to college and made his own niche in the world. When he went to his second college, was when he learned about the transitional house in Richmond. It was an experience that I won’t be able to forget for the rest of my life because it was the catalyst that changed my life for the better. This was one time my brother was protecting me but also helping me to grow. My brother, my friend. This still rings true today and I am grateful.
This post was shared by a former resident in CA’s Adult Programs. They are a regular contributor to our blog resources. To learn more about CA’s programs for adults with autism, visit our website here
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