You heard from my mother a couple of days ago, and my father, yesterday, about what it was like having a very low functioning, autistic and nonverbal son, plus two other children. I described a bit of what it was like growing up in that environment (Disguise, The Doctor, Vacation, Patience).
What happens years later?
Every person who can take care of himself or herself develops a method of dealing with life. More frequently than not, I suspect, the coping mechanisms forged in childhood require some adjustment in adulthood.
I think that my upbringing enabled me to combine my father’s enthusiasm for understanding the nature of things with my mother’s artistic sensibility. The result is my quest for understanding the nature of my older brother’s condition and expressing my reaction to it.
How much of the past is too much?
My mother said she hopes that I don’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. I hope so too, but who knows how much is too much? I suppose that an indication of too much time spent on the past would be a reduced ability to be in the present; self indulgence to the exclusion of others; an inability to plan for the future. I’m sure there are more bad things that fall out of spending too much time in the past, I just can’t think of them now.
After my photography show, Brotherly Love I brought back all the photos to my apartment. I hung most of them up. I saw nothing wrong with this, but my wife didn’t think it was quite right to be surrounded by my past to that degree. Was my judgment off? Did my act of surrounding myself with childhood photos and photos of my impaired brother indicate a pathological connection with the past? I still don’t think so: I had no trouble adjusting to the needs of my wife and redecorating with other artwork. That’s healthy, isn’t it?
Genesis of my relationship with Mike
My reaction to my brother was the result of several things: 1) how my brother interacted (or didn’t interact) with me; 2) how I observed my parents reacting to him; 3) how my parents helped me understand Mike; 4) my own needs and ambitions. My reaction to him was necessarily different than anyone else in my family for several reasons: 1) I was closest in age to Mike; 2) I was a child; 3) I was in closer physical proximity to him more than my younger brother. My parents lived their own lives prior to Mike’s arrival, without his influence. Of course, he changed the rest of their lives, but not the beginning of their lives.
Sometimes coping mechanisms of the past, reassert themselves: