Friday, 08 April 2011
As I was cleaning out my files, I came across this story. Although I wrote it more than twenty years ago when Brandon was fifteen, I thought it was worth sharing.
For Brandon's fifteenth birthday my sister asked if Brandon could join her and her girlfriend on a trip to Hawaii. I thought she was joking because my mom was the only other person to ever take Brandon on vacations. It was shocking and exciting to think of being without Brandon for one whole week. It felt as though I was the one having the holiday. My first response was to say no, because I was afraid she might never speak to me again. My psychologist, Ellen, told me, "Of course, let her take him and let her really find out first hand what goes on behind closed doors." To have one week without Brandon made it impossible for me to say no.
My sister had big plans for him from snorkeling, to swimming, to tours around the islands and all types of activities. I knew she just didn't understand who Brandon was. As my therapist said, "She'll understand.”
For the entire week Brandon was gone I had a fabulous time. It was a holiday for my husband, Matt, and me. It rarely happened that Brandon wasn't home and it was somewhat unnerving. The first few days, I worried about Brandon. Fortunately, there were no phone calls, which at least meant there were no crises. The seven days passed very quickly. It was Sunday evening and it was time to pick Brandon up at the airport. I did everything in my power not to go, but my husband talked me into it. I went unwillingly because I knew what to expect.
I watched my sister, her girlfriend, and Brandon walk off the airplane. My sister had "the look" of total disbelief, physical exhaustion, and emotional depletion. Her eyes were glazed over. Her first words were, "I don't know how you do it everyday. You get to pick your special day, because I am making a Saint's Day just for you."
It was no vacation for my sister, it was actually one of the most difficult weeks of her life. For the first time she realized Brandon's limitations. She saw his resistance, his inability to venture out into anything new, his difficulty in making friends or doing basic things. She couldn’t believe he even hated the beach, but taking him on holiday made it crystal clear.
I was totally validated by my sister and it felt great. I was never told what to do again by anyone in my family. I was looked upon with admiration and respect. I will always be grateful to my sister for being the first family member to validate me. Having someone truly understand what I was going through made a big difference in my life. It gave me hope and the courage to go on.
Since that trip, my sister has always been there for me. Her on-going support was and still is a great gift.