This post is a back-story for my first visit to see my autistic brother Michael at the Brooklyn Developmental Center. It is something of a departure from what I usually write, as it concerns a relationship outside my immediate family of my two brothers and my parents. I was married to my first wife at the time. The following was written at the time of the visit, about twenty years ago.
I wanted my wife, J__, to meet Michael so she could get a better understanding of me. Whereas I had an inkling why Hayden’s ‘Surprise Symphony’, J. S. Bach’s ‘Double Concerto’ I used to play with my Dad, Ralph Vaugh Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’ never failed to make me sob; why I could focus intently on the Sunday Times crossword puzzle and be easily distracted when cleaning the house; why I would flash with anger when people would not let me cross New York intersections in peace, she had no clue. She always said, “You’re crazy,” with a smile. It dawned on me that she might have meant it. Michael could be my Rosetta Stone. If she met him she could decipher my strangeness. She might be able to see her way clear to give me all the understanding I needed. More than I could supply myself.
“If you don’t allow me to take care of you, what do you need me for?” was a thought that only partially coalesced, at that time. Looking back, caring must have been a commodity to me: I’ll care for you if you’ll love me forever. I could not help Michael, no matter how I tried. I used to have a recurring dream of being tied to the tracks, or maybe it was Mike. Whoever was there, I just couldn’t change what was about to happen.
I had survived the ordeal of growing up. On the outside, I looked like anyone else. Who knew I was cheated? Who cared? Now that I was grown, I was free to be happy. I waited. The beautiful strains of wistful music brought to me on radio waves as if a time bubble burst, transported me to those sad, yet familiar days. Joy from the truth of the music collecting inside myself. How do I share this? Is that happiness? As I dreamed of companionship, those who really did care decanted as much attention as they could spare into the rat hole that was I. But I had a child’s appetite that could not be sated.
My big brother would vouch for me if he could. One hour with him would be proof that anyone could understand.
Told with the words only an ‘insider to the world’ knows how to relate.
Thank you, Sheri.
I was wondering if I over-reached on this post. I do think that some siblings might feel the way I did at that time. In a way it is the same as saying, “See, I wasn’t making this up.” Time tends to make things fade. I am glad that I can refer to my notes to see what I was really feeling then.