In my blog the other day, I wondered whether siblings of handicapped brothers or sisters would necessarily end up being acquisitive, keeping memorabilia and other clutter. I got a wonderful comment from Kristin, who also has a handicapped sib and no problem at all with de-cluttering, or ‘cleansing’ as she so aptly put it. So the answer is, “No, having a handicapped sibling does not necessarily make one a clutterer.”
It has to be something else
When Michael, my older autistic brother, was born, there was no Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The first DSM to come out was in 1952. In that document, DSM-I, autism was under the category, schizophrenic reaction, childhood type. No doctors at that time had a clue as to what was wrong with my brother; my mother took him everywhere, including the Paine-Whitney Clinic, in New York City. She may have thought that Michael could not tell the difference between what was real and what was imaginary, even though there was no way to tell; Mike was not verbal and he functioned on a very low level.
What is real?
I spoke at a very early age and quickly used to have full conversations with my mother. Mom would always ask me if the things I talked about were real or imaginary. She does not remember exactly why she did that, although she was aware of childhood schizophrenia, and may have wanted to know that I had a grip on reality. Feel free to chime in, Mom, if I got it wrong.
No, Mom, you didn’t screw me up. You did the best that you could do and I know that. Besides, I’ve had a great grip on reality since I was 30, at least! Just joking, of course.
So, do I wish to keep mementos as evidence, proof that an event really happened? I think that is part of it. The malleability of my memory is also a factor. I can remember things in vague terms, but a memento will provide details that I might ordinarily mis-remember. For example, I know that I went to see a play with my parents, starring Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. But in going through the dreaded ‘stuff’, I found the actual playbill. I never would have remembered the name of the play, the fact that Anne Meara wrote it or that Rita Moreno was also in the cast, without that physical piece of evidence.
Does it matter?
I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What difference would it make 100 years from now? Hell what difference would it make 30 years from now? I suppose I could ask, what difference does it make now? I don’t think it makes much of a difference that I was in the presence of such great actors or that I had this specific experience in my life. It has already integrated itself into my personality with my other life experiences. I suppose I could think of it mental nourishment. Using that metaphor, who would want to remember what he ate 30 years ago? In fact it might considered rude to ‘bring that up again’, food-wise.
I am slumping toward a solution and feel certain that I will be significantly less encumbered at moving time, although I’m not expecting miracles.