I saw the movie ‘Rain Man’ in the theater on this day. I know because I wrote it down. The following are the thoughts from my journal entry of that date.
12/26/88 5:18 PM
Don’t know why, but I was angry when I left the theater. Black thoughts.
I noticed some traits of Raymond, the autistic person in the film, to be quite similar to mine. For example, copious note taking and attention to background noises such as the sound of the roadway to which Raymond would hum along.
Raymond was like my older brother in some ways. Not in any physical way except for the times he became self-abusive. Sometimes, the relationship between Charlie and his brother Raymond was like my relationship with my older brother. Actually, I didn’t have as good a relationship as they did. Raymond could count cards and won a lot of money in Vegas. My brother has no redeeming value. He’s just a taker. He took my big brother away and replaced him with a nothing. He couldn’t give anything. Once in a great while, probably only a handful of times in my whole life, do I remember my older brother expressing any of the higher emotions such as love. When he would smile or laugh, the whole world would light up, it seemed. He was engaged in reality. He would surface briefly and then disappear into the depths of himself, never to be seen again. He always had the lower emotions: lust (for food); greed (for food); envy (of other people’s food). I suppose he was lonely at times (when he hadn’t had food for a while).
Charlie was lucky. His “Rain Man” or – as he thought – his imaginary friend, read to him and sang to him. Charlie did not remember anything else about this character that happened to be his older brother. Maybe he never knew. Maybe his father kept it all from him.
There is a parallel here with Boo, from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: the older brother as the protector. Dim witted, but there at the right moments. Not capable of feeling, but giving the illusion. Making it possible to believe that there are feelings for the younger brother.
As you might have noticed, I had a lot of anger back then. I didn’t edit my strong feelings from this post because it is legitimate for a brother or sister of an autistic person to have strong feelings. This is important to recognize. Writing them down was how I dealt with it. No doubt there are other ways to deal shortcomings of childhood. At this point I choose to remember the good moments with Michael. Hopefully I will have more.
A coincidence that you posted on this topic as this film was shown on free to air tv here in Australia just a couple of days ago. But the rumblings amongst my community of autism mums started before that – with warnings to the broader community not to draw any comparisons between Raymond and their kids and their kid’s potential.
I dragged myself away from the computer and tuned in about half way through just as the Tom Cruise character was having a meltdown of his own because Raymond needed to go to a particular K Mart to buy some underwear. I had to laugh!
But back to your post – and your dark feelings. I just think it’s amazing that you have these journals to refer to and that the topic you really explored was the relationship (or lack of) with your brother. Of course your anger and pain is legitimate and requires no editing. In sharing how you feel, you are giving me (and many others, I’m sure) a unique insight into the sibling experience. I hold onto the concept that having a sibling with a disability , despite it’s challenges, ultimately results in the abled sibling becoming a more accepting, compassionate, appreciative and well-rounded human being.
Thanks Rose. I am glad that I am providing some insight to you and others about siblings. That is my my goal. It is hard to differentiate anger from disrespect sometimes, though. Disrespect is a slippery slope. I don’t want to cross that line.
The thing is, it seems that you do actually love your brother, and he you (whatever his concept of love may be). I try to be really clear with my boys that I love them, but I may not like (to put it mildly!!!) their behaviour. They are also entitled not to like my/their siblings behaviour too and to express that.
I think you’re right, Rose. I do love my brother. I don’t pretend to know what or if he thinks. Maybe I should pretend and grasp onto whatever external clues there are to support that. I can’t get to the basics: I love you but not your behavior. That “does not compute”, as they used to say.
I think pretending is actually a good technique. It gets you into the mode, even if you are not 100% sure.