A Deep Sense of Gratitude By Katie McNamara

Things have been kind of tense because of COVID-19, but National Siblings Day approaches just as it does every year. I await the day to honor the bond I have with my twin brother, Brian. Growing up with a brother like Brian has taught me to commemorate the beauty in the basic concepts others take for granted timelessly. I have acquired a deep level of gratitude about our unique bond.

Because we are the same age, Brian’s autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, didn’t really appear significantly out of the norm. Growing up, his developmental disability was all I ever knew. If anything, “typical” always seemed rather eccentric to me and as a result I shied away from social situations. This mindset remained in my subconscious until I grew older.

But as we grew older and despite being close, I admit I became quite a bit of envious of “basic picture perfect families.” Now that I am an adult, I realize having him as my twin means I’m actually blessed with a gift; seeing the small things make Brian’s day. For example, when he greets me when I enter his home, when we take him out for car rides, how euphoric Brian gets from entering the grocery store to shop, or how obsessed he is with the idea of eating take out like a basic chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s, or a small Dominos pizza!

Reflecting on it all makes me realize it is shallow to sweat the small stuff, and to be blissful about the best moments. However, sometimes I still feel a shed of sadness when I realize Brian would rather be at his former residential place he previously resided at for 10 years. But I realize I must put his needs before my own selfish desires. As I have matured I realize the simplest acknowledgements are a big deal to Brian. that I might undermine and say are the “simplest of things.” What I mean is the most admirable thing autism has given my twin, even though he has the mindset of a child, is that Brian sees the best in many things I find minuet, grim, or insignificant. Autism, might have seemed like an atrocity when I thought I was alone in this journey. But as I grew older during my childhood, and adolescence, I now see the best in what once broke me and crippled me in doubt, fear, and insecurity. My brother’s autism has actually saved me in many ways. Even during my most troubling times I have recently recovered to being able to realize I could defeat any personal darkness with hope.

National Siblings Day is kind of bittersweet this year, however. Visiting my twin brother, Brian, at his group home has had twists and turns. This is a milder setting than the SIU he resided at, and most notably his earlier hospital stays he went through during my preteen and adolescent years. Spending time with Brian has been positive and just as meaningful as ever–especially since I had previously had to wait a month to see him to follow his move, but then after several months of wonderful interactions they came to an abrupt halt just recently due to the pandemic. However, I still have found ways to be there for Brian through this whole world-changing time. We frequently video chat, and he clearly thought it was the coolest thing on WhatsApp. I think he tried to figure out why my mom and I appeared like cartoons on the screen, but what is most precious is he loves it, it helps me tolerate looking at my reflection for a little while, and I make it a promise to call him every day since his group home is taking quarantine measures to avoid the spread. Unfortunately one visit with Brian could put both him and his roommate at the house, and the faculty at major risk of being at jeopardy of this whole ailment, so it best to physically stay away until the state lifts the state of emergency. It seems unjust, but I have to go with it for the time being until social distancing becomes a thing of the past.

In the meantime, I am in preparation to return as a transfer to a college next fall. I guess I took the right semester off. One major thing on my bucket list has been to become more emotionally independent to prepare for the busy year I have to come. I have been a grocery store employee for two years, so I have been picking up hours at the store when I can – thank goodness grocery stores are considered essential as more states around the country implement shelter-at-home orders.) I am looking forward to a fresh start by working toward my Bachelors in English Fall of 2020.

But I have been enjoying the little things I can over the time being, like facing my fears driving along the road, going to work even when it seems like we are living in a crisis time, reading to expand my mindset, and preparing to walk back into a college classroom discussion without being absorbed by my own bucket of nerves.

 Brian and I have grown through a lot together, so I think we’ll be okay through it all. A quick tip to other siblings. Remember we siblings must stick together, and make the best of it. We are not alone even though there may be days that feel that way. Make the best of the day, and make it an unforgettable time for you and your sibling!

This Siblings Flaunt has been published in partnership with the fabulously flaunting organization, Siblings with a Mission. 

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