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To My Sister With Autism, as I Leave for College

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Dear Talia,

This is really hard. We’ve lived together since I was two-ish when they brought you home from the hospital. To start off, you annoyed me. You were loud, cried a lot and you took all my attention away. I was no longer the only child and instead I had this new tinier version of myself.

A year into the whole me getting used to you thing, or rather two years in, we found out you have autism. I was young then; I didn’t get that autism wasn’t a cold. It wasn’t something you could just take a pill for and hope for the best. There was no treatment or cure or anything like that, but I was 4 now; I couldn’t understand you or your condition.

So we grew together, getting used to the overwhelming cascade of therapists and special ed teachers coming into our house for you, and you sitting through countless hours of school and therapy. You didn’t speak, and it really confused me. I wanted to hear your voice, and I still want to hear your voice. I remember the first time you called my name; we were sitting on a couch a couple years back and you called me by my name, as well as you could articulate it. I smiled and hugged you when I realized that after 12 or 13 years you could finally say it.

You are the best sister I could have asked for. You have taught me how to love, how to live, how to be myself, but maybe the most important thing you taught me is something I don’t want to admit as a writer. You taught me that sometimes words aren’t as powerful as I think they are. Even though your voice is silent, it’s still one of the most powerful voices I’ve heard. In short, you have been my best teacher, and I want you to know I’m crying on a bus on my way to DMV as I write this.

I know sometimes growing up I used to complain about feeling like I always had to accomplish twice for the both of us. Now I see that maybe, and dare I say this, being blorft (the feeling of being completely overwhelmed, but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum according to Tina Fey) on a daily basis wasn’t such a bad thing and will probably come in handy in college.

College. That’s why I’m writing this. I’m about to move a hundred miles away to a new town, a new place, a new everything. Which to be honest isn’t so scary for me because I’m only going a hundred miles away, not six thousand like I have in the past, but still I worry for you. I’ll be home probably about once a month, but some months I won’t be home at all. And I worry about you. We’ve grown so close over the years, me being overly protective of you, and you being my lovely and not-so-tiny anymore sister.

I’m scared about leaving you, and this is probably gonna be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. I can’t just call you up at night and have a conversation. I won’t be able to speak to you and that worries me, and scares me. I don’t want you to worry about me, and I don’t want you to even miss me. What I want you to do is to enjoy school. To be nice to your teachers and eat all the cookies and banana cinnamon pancakes you can get your hands on. I can’t prepare you for this, however much I wish I could. One day I just won’t come home and that’ll be the new normal for us.

Like I said, we can’t have a conversation about it and I don’t know how to explain to you that one day soon, I’ll be leaving. I wish there was a way this could be explained so that on August 23, it won’t be such a surprise. I know I’m powerless, and that’s scary. But when I do leave, I want you to know that you have a big sister who loves you, no matter how far away I am. I want you to know that I will always, always, always love you, because I can’t stop. No matter where you are, I will always be there for you. Now go on and live your life, and please don’t miss me.

Yours always,
Your older sister

Getty image by Michal Oska.

Originally published: August 21, 2018
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