The Visit

Mike looked really old. That was what struck me the most. He also had a low frequency tremor. He also had only one useable eye. the other one was all cataracted over.

Mike Portrait at Geriatric Facility

Portrait of three brothers

No need for Photoshop. My two brothers and I are all in the same place at the same time, for what it’s worth:

Three brothers all together

No sign

I saw absolutely no sign of recognition. He didn’t seem surprised or emotional. He didn’t even respond to the request for “High Five”. In fact after a while, Mike got up from the couch, crossed the room and plopped down on the couch on the other side of the room.

I know that I need to process today’s events some more, but it sure seems that all the years I spent remembering my childhood with Mike, using photography to inspect and look for clues about his behavior, trying to correlate his facial expressions with ambient events in the environment, et cetera, et cetera, was a monumental waste of time. If it looks like a duck, quack likes a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a DUCK.  My brother Mike is what he is: a profoundly retarded, autistic, nonverbal individual who has no recognition of his family and displays no feelings or affection.

My brother doesn’t know me from Adam; he doesn’t know my little brother (his little brother) or my mother (his mother) from Adam either. We’re strangers. In fact, we must be annoying strangers, since he got up and left us for the couch across the room.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not surprised.

15 thoughts on “The Visit

  1. I’m sorry there was no apparent recognition on Mike’s part. But don’t think that the last three years of your journey to understand your brother has been a monumental waste of time, because you have developed Jack, and you have made a lot of friends along the way as part of that process. It has been your personal journey irrespective of any involvement or not that Mike may have had.The journey and not the goal is always what is important. This has been about you and only you, and there is everything right with that. I remain ambivalent as to whether Mike acknowledged your presence or not in his own unique way, how can you or anyone ever really know without hearing it directly from the horse’s mouth so to speak?
    I think that you care about him and your family so much is amazing and deeply admirable, and I for one have enjoyed being part of your journey in whatever small way that has been and will continue to be. Chin up!

    Warmest regards, your good friend

    • Thanks M. Still reeling from the journey down the rat hole. I actually have an answer from my brother through his actions. I must figure out my next side trip through life.

      WR, your friend,


      • I remember reading a book when my son was young . The author had to go away on a business trip for 4 days. Her son did not know her when she came home. I was always terrified to leave DC after reading that. Turns out it was not the case with him, fortunately, but apparently it can be that way with some. Also he’s in his own routine in his own space. Visitors are probably a disruption to his day. He may not be able to express anything other than the fact that his routine was in disarray. It’s difficult and I’m sure it was disappointing. We never know what they are thinking and can’t always assume what they are thinking or what they know or remember by the reactions we get back. Sooty for the ramble, I feel awful that you were so disappointed by the visit.

        • Thanks, Vickie. It was disappointing, for sure, but I hadn’t seen him in a very long time and had not ever been to his new place. To have expected any different reaction from him was a little silly on my part. He never gave me any reason to believe he knew that I was his brother. Ever. Any thoughts about that came from me. There must be some kind of collaboration for two-way communication, and those who don’t participate can only send out signals, for example: ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m sleepy’, ‘I don’t want to sit next to you.’ etc.
          The fact that it is hard for me to accept is about me more than it is about him.

          As always, thank you for your thoughtful comments.


  2. Not a ‘monumental waste’ of time at all. You created a way to deal with a difficult situation. Actually a way to let your love in and really that is all that matters. In the end, love is all that matters. You now get to decide in your mind–you get to create the story because life is all an illusion. We are all connected. Your brother can feel your love. <3

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