Every time Veterans Day rolls around, I feel emotional. My brother Mike was born on Veterans Day. Today he is 70 years of age. I haven’t seen Mike in quite a while. My thinking about him has changed over the years. As a child, I tried to make contact with him. Mike is severely autistic, low functioning and has never uttered a word. From a very young age, I tried to understand him. I am the child on the left in the picture below (circa 1956).
My efforts to understand by brother have eventually served me in good stead, particularly by realizing that every individual with whom I come in contact has a story. However, the memories of frustration and sadness often well to the surface when I encounter people similar to my brother.
I began this blog in January 2013 as a way to share my experiences as the brother of someone utterly unreachable. I tried documenting my efforts at understanding Mike by photographing him; by writing about him; by reading about the workings of the brain; by reading about the history mental illness; by trying to imagine the unimaginable.
Over the past several years, my blog has evolved into a platform for my creative efforts. My photographs of Mike (Mike Portrait, Bandaged Mike, Michael Looking at his Portrait, ) gave way to combining my writing with images (i.e., Invisible Barrier), to photo manipulation (The Other Mike), then to sketches and watercolor paintings. For instance, I painted a series about the barrier that keeps me from my brother (Barrier #5, , Abstract – Barrier, Barrier Series with Gestures). I painted portrait after portrait ( Portrait – Mike Resting, Mike Portrait No. 2, Mike Portrait No. 3). [Note – I cannot curate a summary of my blog in this short space, but I welcome new readers to explore other topics I explored such as the dynamics of our family, etc..]
I was lucky to have my mother and younger brother, Dave, along on my last visit to Mike in his group home (The Visit – I should include a trigger warning here, as my I was very distraught to ultimately realize that after a lifetime, there was no connection from my brother to me).
This photo is from Mike’s birthday, the last time that my mother, my younger brother, Mike and I were all together.
Happy Birthday Mike. I love you (?)… the idea of you (?)… my idea of you (?)… that you are my brother… that you helped me become a better person….. it’s complicated.