Waking Up

A not-quite-ready-for-prime-time story, written shortly after beginning the photo project about my brother, Michael:

I just woke up after forty years of living. It was very confusing. These people came to visit me every week. They always brought me the things to eat and took me for walks in the park. I don’t know how long they had been visiting me like that, but it seemed as a tradition that stretched back for all eternity.

I’ll call them my family. I don’t live with them; I live with others my age. None of the others seem aware of anything. I wonder why I started to become aware.

I began to learn things. The people who live with me were not interested. It was fun to show weekend family what I learned. They usually seemed so lost, as if their visits were just a habit. Now I yearned to play with them. The old man became excited when he saw that I wanted to count higher than he did. He showed me new games and tears welled up in his eyes when I learned them. I actually learned. I got upset when they had to leave. This stirred memories of long ago when they left. Memories I have not known until now.

I found I was talented with music. Melodies just poured out of my mouth. The counselors at school thought I would disturb the others, so at night I would just hum to myself. The family knew the same melodies that I did. I wondered how that could be. Maybe everyone knows the same tunes.

I came to understand that the people who came to visit were my actual family. I found out that I had two brothers and that I was 40 years old. I discovered that other people wake up when they are about 1 year old and spend a wonderful few years physically maturing while they are growing up in the head. I don’t know why that didn’t happen with me.

With the joys of learning and growing up, came the infinitely sad feeling of what I had missed, the heartaches I had caused my family. I missed everything: Being a big brother to my two kid brothers; being a son who would make my parents proud; having friends; talking to people about being awake and alive. And I don’t even remember being asleep for forty years.

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