Ali Family Autism Truths #17 – Brotherly Love

Ali Family Autism Truths #17 – Brotherly Love April 17, 2015
D lying on top of and hugging his little brother, H.
D lying on top of and hugging his little brother, H.

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.

I went home and prayed. Dear God, let this baby be all right. Let D always be loved and treated like the eldest son. Let it all be okay.

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?


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