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November 25, 2011
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We monotonously wonder why the “bad” befalls the good. It seems as though some are just not as lucky as others. I used to believe this and always wondered why; why are some blessed with good looks, great intelligence, and affluence and others with poverty and sadness. We pity ourselves and blame failure on bad luck. However, I have come to the conspicuous conclusion that these virtues or vices do not matter. What matters is the way in which they are handled. This seems simple enough, but it took me a long time to truly understand why.

My 19-year old brother, Adam, was diagnosed with autism sixteen years ago. My parents- both intelligent, auspicious people- swelled with pride and hope for their young son, until it was sadly deflated by this news. Of course, my parents did and always will love my brother. However, this could potentially affect him for the rest of his life. And, undoubtedly, it did.

I looked up to my brother. While most older siblings act in a peremptory manner, Adam was quite the opposite. We got along perfectly; he was a passive sweetheart, always looking out for others’ best interests above his own. I did not see this as the anomaly that it was. To my underdeveloped five-year old brain, he was a normal older brother. I was eventually mature enough to realize something was awry. I observed the bickering and selfishness of other siblings, each striving for their parents’ full attention. I understood that we did not interact like that. Furthermore, I knew that the attention was not evenly distributed amongst us and I was angry. I felt incompetent. Why did Adam deserve more attention than I? I no longer wanted to be independent; I craved their undivided attention always. It did not occur to me that there might be a justified reason for it.

Confusion is an odd experience. I was trapped in my closed brain, blocking off all new information. I was in a car during a storm; lightning struck but did not reach me. It was the day my parents explained to me that my brother had a disability. They tried to explain it to me and help me understand, but I did not. They gave me a book to help me understand, but I did not. I refused to accept what I could not grasp. I vividly remember crying later that day. These tears were not out of sadness, but merely of confused chagrin. I told myself that Adam is normal. Normal? I do not even know the meaning of the word. Adam is not normal. He has “problems”- or so my parents called them.

The years passed and so did my confusion. While I avoided discussing the topic with my parents, I did extensive research. I Googled like you would not believe. I wanted- needed- to understand what these “problems” were. Over time I began to notice how people interact and the social aspects of school. I saw most people, and then Adam. He was “weird”. He barely spoke and when he did, it was awkward and forced. He had a few friends, but they too were “weird”. He was picked on and teased. I was consumed by embarrassment and sadness. As terrible as it sounds, I did not want my classmates to know he was my brother. I was ashamed. On the other hand, I was worried: every single day I worried kids would bully him more so than the day before. By this time, I understood that he was “different” and had “problems”, but I could not fathom why; why him?

Though I had concern for Adam, I was primarily being selfish. All the pressure was placed on me, yet all the attention given to him. I felt so unimportant. I was angry that my parents babied him instead of me. I was the younger one! I tried so hard to succeed and make my parents proud. I could not understand why Adam did not try. He could not do simple tasks like tying his shoelaces. My parents always helped him! This made me crazy; I just wanted him to try. I knew if he tried and practiced consistently he could overcome these “problems”. And I was right. By the time I entered high school Adam was a senior. I liked to think I was independent and no longer needed any attention or help from my parents- that was reserved for Adam. If I could do everything on my own, so could Adam. Soon enough, he was going off to college. My parents were extremely uneasy. They did not think he would be able to take care of himself on his own, even though he would be living fifteen minutes away. This vexed me to no end. I knew he would be fine, as long as he tried. What worried me, however, was whom he would talk to. I did not want him to isolate himself. I prayed he would make friends and be happy.

Adam has now been in college for two years. He has lived up to my exceptionally high expectations. He is blossoming and taking advantage of every opportunity. He is involved in a program for students with disabilities. There are group activities to provide a safe environment for the students to socialize. Adam attends these regularly and I am genuinely proud of him. Previously, he would have avoided these social situations at all costs. Adam is also succeeding in school, with straight A’s. He could have simply given up and blamed his inadequacy on his disability. Yet he has handled it with the finest dexterity. To me, Adam is luckier than most fortuitous people. He accepted his bad luck and worked against it. He refused to fail. He is the strongest person I know and I now look up to him, for my opaque understanding of luck has become translucent.

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AmyFanRetaken This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm
Lovely moving article and very well-written. Really liked reading this.
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