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Gary and Me

My brother was diagnosed as an autistic when he was about two, I think. I was five then and don't really remember much about how I felt, or how they told me what was going on, or even if they did at all. All I remember is me asking my mom why Gary didn't play with me, and she replied "Because he's different from other boys. He may not be able to play with you." At the time I didn't think much about what she was saying. I guess a five-year-old doesn't much care.

Another thing I remember was my whole family being in a doctors office with Gary. He was asleep on my mom's lap and he had all kinds of wires attatched to his head. The wires led to a machine, which I couldn't see very well, so I have no idea what it was doing. My mom told me we were there to find out what Gary was thinking about. I'm not sure if that was before or after he was diagnosed. That memory is kind of taken over by what was in the doctor's office -- a menagerie of stuffed animals. I kept hoping that the man was going to say I could pick one to take home, for being so good and waiting with my silent little brother. (That didn't happen, by the way. I was so disappointed! :-)

My family has a ton of home videos of us from when we were little. My brother is shrieking in just about all of them. The sounds he makes are all different, though. Sometimes he sounds annoyed and sometimes he sounds happy. All I knew then was that it hurt my ears.

For some reason it's very hard to remember my feelings from when I was younger. All I can rememer is the way I acted. I remember in first grade I brought Gary in for show-and-tell, just because I had nothing else to show and all the other kids brought their little brothers and sisters. Throughout the whole "presentation" he sat between me and my mom, waggling his head and making little noises that made all my friends laugh. When it was time for questions, I called on my friend Becky, who said "You told me something about your brother a while ago...that he was sick? Or something?" I'd totally forgotten what I'd told her but I knew what she meant. I looked up at my mom, not wanting to explain the whole mess to my friends. She said, "Gary has autism. That means his brain doesn't think exactly like yours does. He moves and acts differently. He'll have this for all of his life. But don't worry," she added when a few kids backed away from the circle, "you can't catch it." Even after that a lot of kids avoided Gary. Some even avoided me. I cried a lot after that.

There really aren't any memories that stand out after first grade, except for my going to a sibling support group when I was nine. It was put together by my school and there were about five other kids in it. Only one girl besides me went there, and she was younger than me, so I felt pretty out of place most of the time. I don't even know what we talked about but I don't think it was about our siblings. I think we played games most of the time.

My parents have tried a lot of things to help Gary. He used to take a bunch of vitamins and other drugs, but for whatever reason, he doesn't take them anymore. He also used to go to physical and occupational therapy once or twice a week, but I think they cover that at his school now. The only outside thing he does is take swimming lessons in the summer. That's not always pleasant, since he's terrified of the water. Well, not the water exactly, but of having his feet off the ground while in the water. He's scared of a lot of things. His biggest fear right now is of being without my mother. That's tough, since my parents both work full time and it's hard to pinpoint exactly when my mom will be home. Gary has a set time in his mind, though, and if she's not home by then he gets hysterical. Not fun for me, since I get to be the baby-sitter (and the receiver of flying objects when this happens.) It's a rotton deal, but we're working on it.

There are many things yet to come, in Gary's life and in mine. I guess for now I'll just have to wait and see what comes to me.

~*~ Jamie Lynn ~*~