I have an uncle who is 2 years older than me. My mother was an only child until she was 21. I belive she once told me that is because people in our family only have sex every 21 years or I wasn’t to have sex until I was 21 or something. I don’t know. I wasn’t listening. But this is about Brad, my uncle, my brother.
Brad is cognitively impaired, and cannot hear very well. He has had all the accompanying learning disabilities that anyone could possibly expect. He’s had the odd ‘diagnosis’, anything from autism to IQ scores so low that it’s a wonder he can speak. Nobody can really pinpoint what, if anything, is really going on. But to me, he’s just Brad.
Brad and I were both only kids, 2 years apart. We were like puppies when we saw each other! Play and play, fight like hell, play some more. He was my bro. I wouldn’t have to walk through this life alone. I was lucky to have him.
I never knew anything was ‘wrong’ with Brad. He was just a boy. My boy. But by the time I hit 11 or 12, as I was evolving, he wasn’t. I remember feeling so frustrated, like, “Come on already! Catch up, dude.” And he couldn’t. He stayed in childhood. And I was without my besty. He left me all alone.
I got angry with him. I was so mad! What the hell was wrong with him? Why was he retarded? (using that word only once, ever, to convey what I felt at the time.) How could he do this to me? It took me until I was an adult to realize I’d left him all alone, too.
I got to know Brad. I started to really listen. I became his friend, and he mine. All he ever wanted was to be “normal”. He wanted to get married, have a family, drive a car. All the things you and I want. He wanted to be capable. He tried, boy, did he try! Until sometime a couple of years after my grandmother died. He really started to change. He seemed to deteriorate. He moved in with my folks, then to a group home. His speech and coordination got worse. Mom did everything she could, doctors, psychiatrists, prayer. You name it. I took him for a drive about 2 years ago, and as I watched him fumble to the car, I thought to myself “Who is this?” This isn’t Brad. He wasn’t joking or happy-go-lucky with me, as he usually was. He wasn’t him. Something was wrong.
Shortly after, he had an eye appointment, and the other shoe dropped. He has retinitis. He can only see through his peripheral vision. It’s like he has 2 black holes in his line of sight. And nothing can be done.
My Star Trek loving, movie watching, hope upon hopeful guy is in essence, blind.
And yet. And yet…
Ten years ago, he took up painting. With some help. And he does the most beautiful abstracts I’ve ever seen. They sing, his paintings. They speak to what he cannot.
He’s already sold one. I’ve asked him to keep painting, even though he can’t see too well. I told him how proud I am of him, that he speaks with his paintbrush. He’s happy and content. And that is all I could ever want. Love you, Brad.
p.s. The big landscape is mine. Come over and see it. Amazing.