Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Best Brother

Yesterday, I watched a fellow student present a project about her sibling who has a disability, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the things she said. She didn't share fond childhood memories, but instead spoke of her bitterness and jealousy, and told a story about going to Capitol Hill to speak about the hardships her sibling faced and how it affected her family, and to essentially demand that the government compensate them for this "hardship". I've been trying to see things from her perspective, and to believe that she is showing love to her sibling by being an outspoken advocate. I'm still in a bit of shock over some of the things she said, and I've been thinking about how thankful I am that my brother doesn't have such a negative attitude about me, or my role in our family. Up to this point, I've tried not to write about my family in specific detail, because they shouldn't be exploited for my benefit, but I'm making an exception today with the best intentions. Let's all cross our fingers that my brother doesn't disown me for what I'm about to say.
     Because I was born with a birth defect that causes my life to be a little different than the average person's, my childhood was sometimes interrupted by doctors appointments and surgeries, and the general feeling that I didn't exactly fit in. However, when I think of my relationship with my older brother, most of the memories I have are the same as those of most siblings. I have a very clear memory of one summer day when Seth and I were at my grandmother's house, playing upstairs where she couldn't see us, and Seth discovered a bottle of Japanese Cherry Blossom perfume. I don't know what exactly we were doing that led up to what happened, but for some reason, probably a combination of sibling rivalry and whatever it is in adolescent boys brains that causes them to do things that make no sense just for the fun of it, Seth decided to start spraying the perfume, and once he started, he just kept going. Grandma may have been oblivious to our shenanigans up to that point, but it turns out that if you spray an entire bottle of perfume, the scent travels pretty quickly. The scene that followed is one of the only memories I have of my Grandma being mad at us to the point of yelling, and once she was done yelling we were banished outside and barred from coming back in until we were invited. I was devastated to have made Grandma angry, and worried that our parents would be notified of this incident and further punishment would certainly follow. I retreated to the hammock to cry, and Seth, completely unfazed by the uncharacteristically harsh lecture we had just received, promptly began trying to flip the hammock over with me still in it.
     Another time when we were a little older, I was lucky enough to be invited to ride around with my brother and his friend as they tested out his truck in the snow. During this ride, they began to discuss the possibility of doing some donuts in a parking lot that belonged to a certain school I may or may not have been attending at the time. I don't know how serious they initially were, but once Seth realized that I didn't want to be a part of this plan for fear of getting caught, he really began to amp up the story, becoming more dramatic the closer we got to the school, eventually having me convinced that I was about to be an unwilling participant in something that would probably get me expelled and possibly even arrested. I can't disclose exactly how the story ends, because of that unspoken agreement siblings have to let some secrets remain secrets. I can say that I did not get expelled or arrested that day, but I did have a lot of fun.
    Most of the memories I have of my childhood with Seth have nothing to do with me having a disability, or him not having one. I don't know how he feels about having a sister like me, and maybe I should ask him. What I do know is that I never heard him complain about it, and I feel confident that he would never stand up in front of his peers and say that my existence in his life has left him bitter. While I remember many people focusing on the things that made me different when I was growing up, the thing that stands out about Seth is that he has always treated me the way most big brothers treat their little sisters, and my differences didn't seem to have much of an effect on our relationship. If anything, they made it stronger.
     I realized yesterday that it's probably worth mentioning that I'm thankful for him. We're not the most sentimental siblings ever, and I'm embarrassed to even have said this much, but I'm not ashamed. Having Seth as my brother taught me that I am allowed to expect people to treat me with respect even though I'm different. Some of my childhood memories include doctors and hospitals, but the most vivid recollections I have are of cherry blossom scented mischief and riding through the snow in his passenger seat, excited to be a trusted sidekick on his adventure. When my brother shows up, laughter is sure to follow, and laughter is always better than bitterness. I'm forever thankful that he saw past the things that made me different, and allowed me to simply be his sister.

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