I’ve been watching some videos that I took years ago of my brother Michael and me. Mike is my older brother, who is low functioning, autistic and nonverbal. For me, an ongoing issue is whether my memory is faithful to actual events. It is important to me, although I’m not sure why. The videos refresh my memory.
Mike and I took a ‘vacation’, together with his fellow housemates in 1996. My memory of this adventure consists of several scenes that I can play back in my mind’s eye: The long, noisy bus trip in the rain; flashbacks to the dining hall; and most of all, the difficulty in taking care of him. The latter memory is more a summary of images than any one in particular. It was particularly hard, since part of my self-imposed agenda was to document the experience.
In the video, the bus trip was noisier than I remembered. My camera was mostly trained on Mike. I gave him a sandwich to eat, which he ripped apart in his usual way. I remember with perfect clarity, his backward ‘fling’ of food he didn’t want. The first time I saw him toss the food over his shoulder, I thought it was funny. It was a bit of a stealth move, and he didn’t listen when I told him not to do it. I was unable to capture an entire fling on camera. Mike may have been making some kind of statement. I never discovered if he did this normally at home, or if it was just an eating-food-on-the-bus thing.
We did have a connection on the bus of some kind when I offered him my hand.
He got a little anxious and bit his hand. He does that a lot.
Watching the video of the group of us going to the dining hall, I remember feeling anxious. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I heard myself in the video saying ‘This is going to be a mess’. I was right. Mike seemed used to this, since he allowed me to wipe his face, hands and shirt of all the food that remained after his meal.
I am happy to have a recording of some of our vacation.
Now that I think about it, my memory issues may have an explanation. I probably made the video so that I could show others what it was like. Perhaps I don’t think people believe me if I recall my experiences in mere words.
It is like the fisherman who tells of the monstrous fish that got away: no one believes him. My video is my catch.