It’s no secret I’ve been suffering through some copious amounts of anxiety as of late. More than I usual–and understandably so, I think. But all that came to a momentary halt when I came home from work on Friday and was greeted by my younger brother, Max–and a present. He had specially made. For me.
Let me just pause here to review for you Readers who may not be as familiar: I’ve written about Max a bit on here, but just in case you do not feel like searching through my blog’s archives for accounts of our sibling interactions, here’s the gist. Max is my younger brother whom I love with my whole heart…and who also happens to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum of Asperger Syndrome (which is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum of autism). Basically, he has AS, but functions so seemingly “normal” (by society’s definition, anyway) in everyday life, passersby would likely not know he has it unless told. At the very least, he may simply come across as eccentric, but beyond that…
Asperger Syndrome and autism have made remarkable waves throughout media in recent years, so I think the general population has a decent grasp on the concepts. But, in a nutshell, autism is a developmental disorder that interferes with the ability to communicate, to interact with the outside world. Asperger Syndrome is much the same, only the interference with communicating is, I suppose you could say, to a lesser degree; as I said, AS is more high-functioning. So while someone with autism may struggle to interact with another, with the outside world, to the extent of being nonverbal (no talking), someone with Asperger’s does talk and interact with others, but there are conditions. Maybe they talk too much about a certain subject yet are notably silent on others. Maybe they pace back in forth while they talk. Or don’t make eye contact. Or speak in a flat, monotone voice. It all varies, case-by-case. In short? Autism folks struggle to communicate; Aspies, as well, but to a lesser degree–so much so that they are more perceivably “normal” to the rest of us… yet, not normal enough.
Back to Max’s gift. My little brother has surprised me with his behavior throughout the years. And this past weekend, he continued that trend. Individuals with Asperger’s are not typically known for their thoughtfulness; they tend to live in their own world, focusing on their perspective. I attribute it to a starring character in a movie–the person with Asperger’s takes on the main role, while everyone else serves lesser roles. Everything that happens to the former is a BIG DEAL, and is interpreted and reacted to only based upon on how said happening affects them. Seems kind of selfish, yes? But I think we’re all pretty guilty of that from time to time. In any regard, while Max exhibits this way of thinking, he also balances it out with his random bouts of thoughtfulness.
Evidence A: I’m a pretty big fan of Disney. I mean who isn’t, to some degree? I’m certainly not a fanatic by any means, but do I like the movies, the catchy songs, the overpriced theme parks? Yeah! I do. So anyways, Max is taking an art class at school this semester and I guess his teacher was giving students some free reign in their latest project and so Max sketched a detailed replica of the acclaimed Disney Castle…with the intention of giving it to me. Which he did! And Readers, let me tell you my heart became so full right then–so much that I think it promptly melted as a delayed response to the kind gesture.
Look, I know, in most other cases, with “normal” siblings, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Some siblings might be genuinely touched but not make a huge commotion out of the affair. Others might not think anything of it, limply accepting the drawing and then forget about it in the weeks to come. And there are those who may not do much of anything at all. I mean, it’s only a drawing, right? Of something I only like, but not fanatically love. What’s so great about that?
Max and I are not a “normal” case (is there such a thing with any set of siblings, though?). I don’t see a measly sketch. I see tangible evidence of my dear Aspergian brother thinking of someone else. I see an act of kindness, of love, that lets me know Max loves me and thinks of me and values me. To receive that, when people with autism/Asperger’s aren’t known for their consideration or their affection, just warms me to my core.
And gives me momentary respite from my constant, nearing-graduation-anxiety. Nothing distracts you from life’s hardships quite like love…or something. And I’m thankful I’ve been granted times like this to remind me of that.
Love on, Readers.