Brother From the Same Mother

by dpreyde

A month or two after I started this blog, I asked my sister Allison Preyde to write about what it was like to be raised with an autistic sibling. She wrote two perfect paragraphs, and then stopped, concerned that it was a crazy rant.

Last month I wrote a blog entry about the dynamics that Allison and I shared while growing up, and this inspired her to take another crack at it.

Allison works for the Sexual Assault Centre of London, where she is a public education coordinator. She’s also completing a Master’s Degree at Western University in philosophy.

“Where’s Mummy and Daddy?”

“They’re dead.”

Some of my earliest memories are of David’s lies. Despite us being quite close now, I still don’t believe most of the things he says. JK Rowling died before the seventh book was released? Source, please. Oh, and now I’m supposed to believe that Heath Ledger kicked the bucket? Yeah, right.

Fuck.

I was quite pleased when I was the one who got to tell him about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Is that demented? I can’t tell anymore.

Being a Maintainer isn’t a job that I get to punch in and out of. It’s a fundamental part of who I am and how I experience the world. David’s Asperger’s, though undiagnosed for years, was something that I was born into. As my parents’ first child, he was the norm. Even after learning that he was actually quite far from normal, the message was always that it was the world–and not David– that needed to change. It’s no wonder the kid got a God complex. It’s also no wonder that I spent a large part of my childhood fluctuating between trying to be the accommodating good girl and having full fledged tantrums about how bitterly unfair the world is.

I looked up to David; he seemed to have all the answers. He also had the annoying habit of doing precisely what my parents asked of him, which made me look bad.

One time I broke his finger. It was an… accident?

Being raised in a family with two social workers and a sibling on the spectrum certainly did a number on me. Now I have a bit of a “saving people” thing. When I was about 5, I saw one of those save the starving children commercials and I cried. A lot. I now work with at-risk youth and am constantly having to remember the importance of boundaries and the fact that I’m not allowed to adopt all the reckless teenagers. It just wouldn’t be practical.

Romantically, I found someone about as different as could be from both my brother and my father, while still managing to stay on the spectrum. If we end up having children together, my god… I weep for the future school administration that has to deal with my mama rage in demanding accommodations for that child. If I have learned anything from my childhood, it is the fierceness with which one advocates for and supports their family. You do not fuck with the Preydes.

Despite being four years younger, I have taken on several “big sister” roles in David’s life. As teenagers I would frequently give him fashion advice. These days it’s more often dating advice. When we were children, my main job took place on the playground. Once I jumped a guy for teasing David. Eventually I learned the much more subtle form of blackmail to stop people from making fun of him. It turns out I have a knack for psychological fun. It also turns out that kids don’t like younger kids who have mastered a death stare and know detailed information about their home and pets. It pays to make friends with the lunch ladies.

Even though David was basically a monster, he did have one weakness: he didn’t like to see me cry.  Whether this was out of genuine emotion or just a fear of getting in trouble, he always stopped what he was doing and tried to comfort me if I cried. How quickly do you think it took me to learn how to fake cry? Not long, let me tell you. Soon I could turn on the waterworks at the drop of a hat and I finally had the little bastard under my control. Victory.

I think soon after we did family counseling and David and I formed a united front. But my concept of time in my childhood memories is pretty warped, so I really have no idea. Most of it blends together into one big jealous rage until about the age of 10*, when I thought that I had a learning disability and started getting tested. I don’t. I’m actually really quite smart, and not at all impaired. In high school I took gifted classes. When I asked my parents why they hadn’t sent me for the gifted test in second grade, they said that I “just didn’t seem gifted”. This is David’s fault. He was so good at writing that everything I did looked fucking amateur in comparison. I still don’t write poetry because of an internalized devaluation of my own skills.

This seems like a good time to mention that I was published first. It is one of the proudest moments of my young life. Not being published, but being published before David. The bastard had a four year head start and everyone was waiting for him to do amazing things with his writing, and I beat him to it. What now, fucker?

 

*the jealous rage is specific to David. Other than him my childhood was relatively happy and carefree.

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