I’m Told My Brother’s Needs Make Him ‘Hard to Please.’ It’s Just the Opposite.


To my brother, the handsome man with autism:

When I first met you, you had brown hair that stuck out in every direction, grey-blue eyes, a squirmy, little body, and a crazy, loud scream.  You screamed a lot; I think you were trying to take in the whole world through your deep, wide-mouthed breaths… But all of the pictures, colors, sounds and people were just too much for one tiny baby.

As you grew older, you grew quiet — still taking the world in through your grey-blue eyes — watching “Sesame Street” with me, rocking back and forth to the music and flapping your wrists in your signature way. You liked to flap all the time… while eating hot dogs, watching movies, singing songs. Flapping was your happy place, but also your nervous one.

To this day, you flap when your t-shirt isn’t grey, when we are late for an appointment or when you don’t get to pick where we eat lunch. You are a genius, my brother, because you can communicate more with the flick of a wrist than Ernest Hemingway could in 50 pages of prose.

But that’s just my opinion…

And being a literalist, we both know you operate only on facts.

The fact is, you’re my brother, and sometimes you frustrate me. You’re a creature of habit. You’re set in your ways. You like watching movies that you can quote verbatim.  You’re ready to end a vacation after only two days away, and your world can sometimes melt without an afternoon nap.

I’m told your love for routine isn’t “normal,” that it’s one of the hallmarks of your autism. That it is awful, and life-upsetting, and makes you hard to please. But on the contrary, I find that you, with your steady, simple set of wants and needs, are easy to please. It’s the rest of the world, asking you to step outside of them, that can sometimes make life hard.

But that’s just my opinion…

And being a literalist, we both know you operate only on facts.

The fact is, I couldn’t imagine having any other brother but you, the handsome man with autism.

You’re the one who calls me up just to count down the days until my next trip home. The one who always wants to plan what we’ll eat, what we’ll watch and even what we’ll wear every time we’re together. The man who won’t be seen on Sundays without a tie and who doesn’t understand why blaring Christmas music at full volume in April would ever be objectionable.

You make me laugh. You sing and dance with me. You’re my personal fashion police every time I wear black with brown. You keep up with my Facebook posts, love interests and Saturday night dates. You make sure I’m eating at the Cheesecake Factory near my house. You check on me when I’m home sick from work and worry if I miss a gathering at church. You remember more about my schedule from 500 miles away than I do with it right in front of me.

You are my brother, the handsome man with autism, and I love you.

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