My Favorite Picture of Us
I generally don’t talk about my personal life on this blog (Should I? Do you want me to?) but I’m taking a break from regular blog-programming to celebrate my brother’s 20th birthday. If you’ve read this blog for a couple of years, you might know a bit about my brother, Tommy. But for those of you new to the blog (Hi!), I want to tell you about Tommy.
In 20 years, Tommy has accomplished more than anyone else I know. He was born premature and spent the first months of his life hooked up to all kinds of machines and nurses monitored him round-the-clock. Doctors were unable to pinpoint a diagnosis but told my parents Tommy was developmentally disabled and significantly autistic.
That Christmas, he was finally able to come home but still had to rely on an oxygen machine.
Flash forward a couple of years and he did not speak, rarely interacted with other people and still fit into toddler-sized clothes. Different therapists would come to our house to help him with speech and increasing his strength. He had a peanut shaped bouncy ball as a part of his physical therapy and when he wasn’t using it, I found it to be the perfect seat while I watched the Disney Channel.
While my friends had squabbles with their siblings over who controlled the remote, my sibling couldn’t speak and seemed to be living in his own world. My parents explained Tommy was a special kind of sibling but I never really thought of our relationship as different. He was my baby brother, my only sibling. Ours was the only sibling relationship I truly experienced so to me, our reality was our norm.
When Tommy was little, he was up there on the autism spectrum. He wouldn’t hug and most of his speaking was him carrying on big conversations in his own language with the mirror in our china cabinet. Tommy would sit there for hours talking to his reflection. As he got older, he began interacting with my parents and me more.
He loves watching the Nightly News with Brian Williams, followed by Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Watching Wheel of Fortune with my dad, Tommy began to memorize letters and spellings. If a person asked for a “C,” my dad would say “C for cat” and Tommy repeated it. Slowly but surely, Tommy became the one to supply a word for each letter called.
Specialists told my parents Tommy would never be able to read. Now, he remarkably reads at a 2nd grade level and loves his books. When I go home to New York, I fall asleep to the sound of Tommy reading his books out loud in bed, followed by a loud thud when he tosses the book to the hardwood floor after he’s finished.
Tommy is now the most verbal kid in his class, his teachers jokingly say he’s the class president.
While Tommy can become frustrated by his limitations, he is the happiest person I know. He truly appreciates the little things in life: to him, chicken fingers and a library visit make for an awesome day. He loves the Nightly News with Brian Williams and can pick Chuck Todd out from the White House Press Corp. Tommy gets a genuine kick out of the “Laughing Baby” YouTube videos and is a proud Special Olympian. Oh, and he loves a good jump on the trampoline!
P.S. If you like smiling, click on the link below : )
Happy 20th birthday to my cutie pie, Tommy!
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