In fact, it wasn’t only with the onset of puberty that my brother became much more difficult to understand. All throughout his elementary school days, he was a runner. Leave the door open a crack? Gone. Playing in the park, look away for a moment? Poof. Shopping at the mall and let go of his hand for the second? Up in smoke.
I actually remember his running in equally traumatic and delightful measures. It was traumatic because literally losing your baby brother is horrific. My strangely joyful memories, however, descend from the images I have in my mind of our naughty, tiny, snow-white Pekingese dog chasing after him at all times, grabbing hold of his pants and underwear with her teeth, trying to drag his relentless ass home. Anyway, back to puberty.
We often speak about this phase in any adolescent’s life as difficult, but I can’t explain or comprehend why it made my little brother so much angrier than he had ever been. It was as if his developmental hormonal changes included an anger virus which invaded his being like Venom taking over Spiderman. Never before had my brother yelled or gotten aggressively upset over inexplicable circumstances in his environment like this. He had always been so cuddly, sweet, and openly vulnerable. You could create instant bliss for him simply by mentioning the words Sonic the Hedgehog. So, we were very much taken aback and lost on how to help our suddenly furious “baby” boy. Teachers always used to say how much they loved my brother. As high school life began, this all changed. We started getting many more reports on how much of a problem he was. It got to the point where our reactions to the phone calls and letters eventually became, “Alright, we get it, but don’t know what we can do about it either!”
It was around this time that I was going through my own share of existential crises, deciding that global work and travel would be the only thing to protect my own sanity. Although there’s a part of me that feels guilty for leaving my family at a time when they were most at-risk and dysfunctional (and our issues were far more exacerbated than caused by having a teen with such complex needs), I look back and realize that it was the best thing for everyone involved. The old adage which says that you can’t help others if you are unable to help yourself rings so true for me here. There was no way that I was going to be able to help until I sorted out my own ship.