TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — No matter how much you choose to talk, because I know sometimes you just don’t feel like it, we will never understand the intricacies of how your mind works.
You are unbelievably smart and not enough people know it. You are a master of deception.
You watch the dozens of school buses roll on to the ramp every day and you memorize their three-digit numbers. You write them all accurately down hours later, in the exact order they lined up.
You can figure out on what day of the week July 7, 1989 fell. You can do it with any date, in less than 10 seconds, without looking it up.
You could count past 1,000 at the age of three. You memorize the alpha-numeric serial numbers on the side of VHS tapes, and you could probably tell me the exact duration, down to the second, of any song you’ve ever heard. You should have just taken the ASVAB for me.
You’ve memorized the pattern in which Cheez-It crackers mark expiration dates on their boxes. Only certain dates will be good enough for you. Your selection process is still a curiosity. You discard the box when you get home, and don’t like to share them with anyone; except for me.
You feel things differently than we do. You see, hear and taste things differently, too. Boy, is your taste in food different. How do you eat all that cheese?
You don’t worry about paying bills, or about politics, religion or war. You’re above it all, and you could care less about what society thinks.
The rest of the world should live more like you.
You say, out loud, when the overweight woman wearing a spaghetti strap tank in the grocery store has “big arms.” And you say it loud enough for her boyfriend to start giving dirty looks. You bring your note pad and dictionary into the movie theater along with a stash of the snacks you’ll eat. And we dare the movie theater guy to come tell you that you can’t. No really guy, try it. Autism aside, you’re ultimately still a 17-year-old little brother. You want to sleep in, play baseball, buy stuff on E-Bay and not talk to your parents unless absolutely necessary. You’ve taken countless CDs and DVDs from me, and you chewed on the head of my favorite Beanie Baby. You wrote in my diary and left it out for our parents to find. And read. Thanks buddy. You don’t want to anyone to disrupt your routine. We can only listen your music in the car, and you pass gas in public.
Did I mention how messy you can be?
You eventually learned that a plastic Winnie the Pooh toy will not swim and will not flush down the toilet. Your dad only had to take the toilet off the floor twice for you to understand it, or you just lost interest. I’m thinking it was the latter.
You found out the hard way that the oven rack gets really hot, so I wrapped up the hands of your Barney stuffed animal so you wouldn’t take the bandages off your own hands, and so you wouldn’t feel different.
I would give you baths, take you to the park and worry that you would hit your head when you ran around the kitchen counter in your Teletubby slippers.
I helped raise you, but you saved her.
Growing up, you were the one that was always there. You were diagnosed with autism the same year your mother passed away. I came to live with you.
Your path was a challenged one, but your sister knows think I needed you more than you ever needed me.
Things weren’t easy, but you brought me happiness when it was otherwise hard to come by.
You were, and still are, my constant reminder that life is only as good as you choose to perceive it.
You’re like a brilliant musician, playing for the deaf. Those who love you, hear you. But ultimately we’re still stuck in a different world, apart from you, where everyone is just typical. We could only dream to be as talented, innocent or unique as you.