April 17, 2015 – Autism Awareness Month, Autism Truths #17
His brief seven years on this earth is littered with the best exchanges with his big brother, D.
Driving home from school the other day:
D bhai, do you know that you have a mustache? He says to his 14-year-old brother.
Ya! His brother answers back. I stifle my laughter as I drive the car.
Or, a few months earlier:
Mamma, will you come downstairs with me? (He wants to play on the X-Box and hates going into the basement alone.)
No, I tell him. I have to cook dinner.
“A” Apa, will you come with me?
No, I’m busy, she tells him.
He sits on the stairs dejected. Go down by yourself, I tell him. But he sits there silently. Then I see him go running up the stairs. I can hear D in our bedroom, spinning his beads, chilling on the chaise lounge and emitting loud vocals. I listen for what H is saying:
D bhai, will you come downstairs and play with me?
H runs downstairs, and D follows him. They both head into the basement, where H plays on the X-Box and D lounges on the Laz-e-boy chair, watching his younger brother play.
And my heart bursts over this brotherly exchange. Not what I had imagined when H was born. I had memories and images of the relationship my own older brothers had with each other – goofing on each other, ganging up on me, talking sports all the time to each other. When H was born, I knew it wasn’t going to be like that for him and D. What I didn’t know was how much better it would be.
When I went in for that fateful ultrasound — you know, the one when they tell you the sex of the baby, I prayed for a daughter. Everyone in the family was praying for our third child to be a son. But I wanted a daughter. Two reasons: The rate of autism was higher in boys, and I already had a son who was profoundly autistic; and secondly, I thought that if I had another girl, there would never be another boy to compete with D for that proverbial “son” role in our family. But there it was on the ultrasound machine – proof positive that there was a man-child inside of me.
Of course it all was okay. But it took awhile to get there. For the first years of his life, H didn’t know what to make of D. With seven years of a gap between them, and with H being a peanut in size, his big brother seemed, well, really big to him. The physical size coupled with D’s behaviors, loudness, random meltdowns and other things put H on edge. He wasn’t exactly afraid of D, but he was definitely wary. But God bless that boy — he as he grew, he grew fearless. And, he took his cues from how his older sister A and the rest of us were with D — unafraid, normal, full of love.
H has completed our family in a way that only God could’ve known. He knew. He always knew that we needed H as much as we needed A and D. To watch their brotherly bond unfurl and blossom is one of my greatest delights. There is honor, love and truth in their relationship. H truly respects and loves his older brother. He has never seen D as anything less, not because he cannot talk or he needs assistance in the bathroom or any of the other hundreds of ways in which D needs support. None of that matters. Both H and A call their older brother D Bhai, which literally means brother and is also a term of respect for an older sibling.
A few months back, I listened to D use the bathroom upstairs and come out without washing his hands. Before I could call up to him, I heard H upstairs talking gently to his brother — D bhai, go back and wash your hands! And D went back and did so.
I thought to myself – here is a seven-year-old instructing his 14-year-old brother on doing a task that a two-year-old can do. I can choose to be sad that a teenager needs reminders from a brother seven years his junior to do something a toddler can do. Or, I can be full of love and pride that brothers are looking out for each other. Brothers are helping each other. Brothers are loving each other.
I know which truth I choose. Which one do you choose?