Siblings and the LD person

My friend Varda asked me to write something about siblings for her blog Squashed Bologna. A lot of other people also wrote about siblings, and you can find their posts here. Here’s an edited version of what I wrote

Me and my siblings

I’m learning disabled. It even says so on my blog, which I host at www.IAmLearningDisabled.com. Well, I’m not FORMALLY diagnosed with LD. That’s ’cause I’m 51. MY diagnosis is “minimal brain dysfunction”! Woo! Sorta makes you glad your kids are young, huh? Your kids just have autism or Aspergers or whatnot. *I*’ve got a dysfunctional brain! (At least it’s minimal!) The LD that fits me best is probably Nonverbal Learning Disability. But I note that (per the book) people with NLD have no sense of humor. We are ESPECIALLY bad at things like sarcasm which depend on tone of voice. Hehehe.

Yeah, life for us LD people was even worse 40 years ago and more. MBD was my FORMAL diagnosis. Informal diagnosis were things like “lazy”, “crazy” and “stupid” (from adults) or “Spazzo”, “retard” and such (from kids).
But some things made it easier. And some NON-things made it easier too. Two of the non-things that made it easier for me were my brother and sister. I got lucky. One of the ways I got lucky is that they think THEY got lucky. Not a lot of people would have thought of having me as a sibling as luck.

My sister (technically, my half-sister, but we have an unhyphenated relationship) was 12 when I was born. She was an enormously competent 12 year old. So much so that our mother trusted her to take care of me. Once, when I was a baby, she took me to the park and was pushing me in a swing. A woman came up to her and said “WHAT are you DOING with that BABY?!?” and my sister turned to her and said “that baby is my brother, and I am ENTERTAINING him”. (And I can easily see her doing this).

18 months after I was born, my brother came along. I was an odd-looking, skinny, cranky, strange acting child. My brother was a blue-eyed, blond-haired chubby cheeked cutie. So, everyone oohed and aahed even more over the new baby than usual. My sister decided she was having none of that! No! *I* was the one. Until a couple months when she told our parents that she couldn’t help liking our brother because “he makes himself so charming”. But, nevertheless, I’ve always been closer to my sister than my brother has.

So, there I am, this messed up little baby with this adorable brother. Recipe for …. A GREAT RELATIONSHIP. It’s weird how these things work out sometimes. My brother and I shared a room until I was about 15. For most of that time, it was by choice. In the apartment where we spent our tweens and teens, there were two rooms for us. But, until I was 15, we shared one as a bedroom and used the other for other stuff. And, even after I decided I wanted my own room, we did a lot together. I helped him with his homework (yeah, well, my dysfunctional brain is good at some stuff, like math and writing). He provided relationships. Because I had no friends from 6th to 11th grades. None. I think I had one date (and that was a disaster) and I don’t recall any “play dates”. But my brother had tons of friends. He loved being around people. And people loved being around him, too. He made himself charming. And I got to share.

Meanwhile, my sister had gone off to college (but she came home some) and then got married. She lived for a little while in Lawrence, Kansas, but for most of the time she lived in Chicago. I used to go visit. A lot. Several times a year. Because it was just a lot easier being in her house than being in my parents’ house. How many people go to Chicago for Christmas vacation?

So, even though for a lot of kids in the autism ballpark, sibling relationships are really hard, for me they were good. Why? Well, Calvin Trillin was once asked the secret to his long, happy marriage. He said “I walked into the right party”. That’s how I feel. I got lucky. That’s not much help to others, I guess. I don’t know how my brother and sister decided to put up with me. But I’m really glad they did.

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