Saturday, July 05, 2008

Thoughts on my brother’s birthday…

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.

Happy birthday and the first round of fries are on me...


William "Papa" Meloney said...

Thanks for sharing you brother.

Happy Birthday Bill, many happy returns.

The Bear Maiden said...

Happy Birthday, Brother Bill.

My best freind Shoefly's nephew is autistic. Now 14, tall and goodlooking, we go places and he does "autistic things" and people look... but he is so normal within the context of his family that none of us really see it... unless he gets really agitated and then someone walks over and calms him down. They are pure people like him and Bill, there are things about the harshness of life that will never tarnish them, and this is a special blessing...

All the best to you all, and enjoy the day...

The Truffle said...

Happy b-day to your brother, Shark Fu!

Fun fact: my brother and I were born three years and a whole day apart. My birthday is September 7. His is September 8. Our mom went into labor at my third birthday party. My brother was born right after midnight on September 8.

Anonymous said...

omg that brought tears to my eyes.

Anonymous said...

The depth of your soul simply destroys me. And I like to think of myself as a real "he-man".

Happy birthday, Bill!!! You're a very lucky man.


Camera Obscura said...

Happy Birthday to Bill from everyone in Casa Obscura, especially #2-Son who will celebrate his 16th next Friday with cake and WALL-E video games and dinner out someplace of his choosing, and perhaps with his mum explaining that no, he won't ever be getting a driver's license, but he will always be loved and cared for and driven any place he needs to go.

Flashtrigger said...

Beautiful post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was linked to this entry from a friend of mine on livejournal, who knew it would mean something to me.

my brother adam turns 21 this year, and while i am the oldest in my family, so much of this post touched me and reminded me of so many moments from my own life. while i'm blessed that adam is verbal, albeit in rather interesting, oft-metaphorical ways, i still struggle to keep a dialogue and connection with him now that i'm 30 and married and 1500 miles away. but like your brother, adam's smiles can make such a huge impact, and he has taught me so much about life, and the mentality to have in my own experiences, good or bad. like you, i've made the commitment to be the family member responsible when the inevitable happens to my parents, and with that responsibility came the revelation that i wouldn't trade having him for my brother for any amount of money in the world.

happy birthday to your brother. i wish him all the happiest, as well as the best to another sister out there who is just as blessed.

abbey/ magicwondershow on livejournal

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I hope you and your brother are having/have had a great time this evening.

Thanks for changing my perception of autism over the past year.

All good things to you Black Lady.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I love reading your Bill stories. The one you did back in April or May about how as a child he disappeared and all of you were in panic and your mama was standing outside in her bra was written so well and with humor and love. I swear, Shark-Fu, I hope you do a book. I'll bet there aren't any or darn few on the black family experience with autism, and you have a nice perspective.

Take care, Kit

Yankee, Transferred said...

Gawd, Shark-fu, I love you. And I love Brother Bill. Happy, happy Bill's birthday to all-o-y'all.

Dusty said...

So beautiful Shark Fu..this post and you for your raw honesty.

Happy Birthday to your big brother Bill..and to many more.


Hey there!

This is a wonderful "ubuntu" tribute!

Thank you so much for sharing another perspective on adult autism!


Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

--Blue Girl said...

I must have remembered last years birthday post subconsciously (the dentist and the pizza and "this shit needs to be universal") because I was thinking about that post yesterday.

I have never failed to get somethign out of every word I have ever read of yours, but when you write about Bill, this bitch gets misty eyed. Thanks for sharing these intimate insights with us. It is truly appreciated.

I sent the link to last years post to my children's godfather, a physician who has two autistic sons. He was very appreciative too.

Laura in L.A. said...

Another lovely birthday post for Brother Bill. Beautiful to read. I hope your family had a great birthday dinner (which I also hope included pizza! :).

You're a beautiful soul, Shark-fu. Thank you for sharing.

Love, Laura

glenise said...

thanks for another tear-inspiring (in a good way :) bill post... happy belated birthday to him! a sister like you would be a blessing for any of us.

Danielle said...

Happy Birthday to your Brother. What a lovely tribute. My nephew was born slightly autistic and he just turned 10 in June.

Congratulations to your family!

Melissa McEwan said...

Happy Birthday to Bill! :-)

PuckFinn said...

A Happy Belated Birthday to Bill!

bitchphd said...

Happy belated, Bill.