Regular readers know that my brother Bill is one of the true joys of my life.
Well, Bill is 38 years old today…yay!
Bill is the oldest and he is autistic, so I have never known a world without autism in it. When I was a wee bitch I was easily embarrassed by Bill’s public displays of autism. As I grew older, I came to resent him for being autistic in a world that didn’t suffer difference. It wasn’t until I returned home to St. Louis to take up co-guardianship with my sister that this bitch came to know and truly appreciate my brother for the man that he is.
Anyhoo, I’m sitting here remembering.
Not the summers spent driving an hour each way so that Bill could go to summer school…the tantrums and destruction of property…the weird and ultimately unproductive diet-based “cures” (wince)…the speech therapy…the family therapy…or the pain of Bill being placed in residential treatment in his early teens.
No, I’m remembering cartwheels through sprinklers and peanut butter mixed with sugar sam’iches…his adoration of cake and Pepsi, candy bars and French fries...and how Bill sang the chorus of September over and over for years upon years (wince again). I remember my father, God rest his soul, trying to play basketball with Bill and Bill’s complete lack of interest in that shit. And always, Bill's smile that can still banish all but happiness from the room in a heartbeat.
I left St. Louis when I was 17 years old, fleeing the dysfunction and damage of my mother’s house to go to college. And in a very real sense I left my brother, because he is without speech and the ability to chat over the phone. In the years that followed, a bitch didn’t keep in touch and struggled not to fret or worry. I gave my brother to God and tried to tell myself that I deserved the time it took to discover who the hell I was and what the world had to offer me.
But when, years later, I came home and went on that first visit to see Bill again I realized that part of who I am is being his sister.
There is no definition of me without Bill or my older sister…no life that took place without them, not really. We three are family, and that has made all the difference.
Today, as we celebrate the gift of Bill’s birth 38 years ago, I am so very proud to be his sister…so amazed at the life he built despite the challenges the world tosses at him.
And tonight this bitch shall cherish a birthday meal with my brother, including all those loud ass repetitive noises and all that other autistic shit (wink), and celebrate with our different kind of family…our different kind of normal.
To my beloved brother Bill, I am so grateful you are in my life.
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