My son is my only natural child. I have two wonderful grown up stepchildren that are half-brother and sister of my son. “Sissy” is 27 and lives in the “City” (San Francisco). She and I have been very close since our beginning but only rarely see each other now because of her busy work schedule and my inability to travel regularly with the little guy that far away.
My son’s other sibling is “Brother Josh”, as the little guy calls him, who is 32 years old and also lives quite far away. Contrary to how my son refers to him, “Brother Josh” is not in the monastery. He is actually an avid skim-boarder and snowboarder with a day job. Josh was living on his own from the time my husband and I first met, years ago so Josh and I never shared a household. He is very quiet. Over the years, he slowly started opening up and sharing stories. As he has, I’ve learned how awesome and kind my stepson really is.
It has to be a strange world for a 32 year old single guy with no kids to have a 5 year old brother. Even so, Josh has slowly warmed to the idea and, at least from my perspective, he’s come to care for and love his little brother more each time they see each other. It’s a little more complex with the little guy’s language and social delays. Josh will try to talk to his little brother but is often met with quirky language and echolalia. I can see how this is awkward for him because sometimes, he doesn’t know what his little brother is talking about. (Sometimes, even I have no idea what he’s talking about…)
The first few times they met was long before the diagnosis. While the little guy showed no sign of interest in his big brother, his big brother always seemed warm to the little one.
Each time they met up, it seemed to get easier, especially when Josh was bearing cool Christmas gifts like a video arcade game.
Then came the shock of the diagnosis. For the first few months after we received the diagnosis, we did not tell Josh or Sissy about their brother’s disability. We did not tell anyone for that matter. Josh heard it before Sissy because he was the first one who came to the house when we felt comfortable enough to use the word “autism” with others which took us some time. Josh was very non-judgmental. He told us that his girlfriend had suspected his little brother had autism and told him about it before we said anything. Apparently, we all had the code of silence about it early on.
The strange part is that I have no idea why we did not tell his siblings about his diagnosis early on. Josh was concerned but loving and accepting and really why would we expect anything else? Yes, the grandparents are a different story. But young, smart, and kind are a good combination for Tootles’ siblings who love and accept the little guy just as he is.
For some reason, this last visit on Tootles’ birthday, the little guy still did not talk much or make a lot of eye contact with his big brother. He did run to him to help open plastic or heavily cardboard locked presents. “Will you please open it please? Open the present!!” he called out to his big brother who willingly complied.
Then, late at night, when he was all dressed in his pajamas and ready for bed, he asked to bring two large remote control cars he got for his birthday into the bedroom from the living room. We got them, set them close by and he repeatedly checked on them, calling them “Thirsty” and the “Nissan”. He would snuggle in his pillow, then get excited and get up to check on them. Just before he closed his eyes for the night, he said, “They’re sleeping next to each other. Just like brothers.”
How’s that for love?