3 February 2012

Party of five

Last night, my younger brother who lives just up the road popped in to see us. Tauren, our youngest, loves having company over and followed my brother everywhere. He only does this with his favourite visitors - my brother and our stepfather. As it started to drizzle outside I asked him to stay for dinner and it was a welcome change to just the four of us. We sat down to dinner of chicken and tomato frittata, oven baked bread rolls and an impromptu leafy salad with split grapes. It's funny how an 'impromptu' dish ends up being the best of a simple meal.

My brother has OCD, epilepsy, stutter and sometimes he forgets things. I was 6 years old when I realised my brother was different. Firstly, he'd wander off meaninglessly, he used to throw himself against large objects, kicked and scribbled on the walls, stabbed me with pens, practised kung-fu on our toys, jumped off the shed repeatedly resulting in a permanent facial scar and he once set fire to our bedroom. As he didn't know what he was doing, our youngest brother and I have never held these things against him.

When I was 10 years old, my brother was diagnosed with 'a moderate intellectual disability'. When the Doctor told me, I didn't understand what that meant and I had a hard time explaining it to our Mother, a non-english speaking pacific-islander. The one rule our Mother had in the home was to never call him 'crazy'. Looking back at our childhood photos he was the cutest little boy ever, no-one would've thought him any other way. When naming our eldest son, I had no hesitation in naming him after my younger brother.

Before I moved out of the family home my brother would wake during the night and check everyone was in their room. He'd even wake someone to ask what day and time it was, even though he was wearing a watch and it had a calendar. During the day he would ask what day it was then 30 minutes later he would ask again. Our Mother became frustrated when she had to buy him his own supply of soap. With his OCD he would wash his hands three times after using the bathroom, washing dishes, coming in from outside, before and after meals etc. To this day, he's even worn out the carpet in the hallway from walking up and down checking things - taps, oven, lights, TV, doors, car sounds, people.

My brother and I love the TV series 'Monk' and even though we laugh out loud together, we do so for different reasons. I laugh because of the supporting characters trying to deal with Adrian Monk. My brother though doesn't realise he behaves in a very similar way. Still, it's something we share. Yes, he is medicated. No, he can't use the oven unsupervised. Yes, he is still forgetful. No, he can't travel on a train alone. Yes, he still goes through a bar of soap a day. However, watching him tonight in our home I realise how far he's come.

Mostly, I remember a little boy with curly long locks who just wanted to play forever.


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