It was 1963.
July 24th to be exact, the day of my brother Sean's birth.
I was eight on my way to being nine.
We later had a sign on our front door that said 'Welcome Home Sean!' I pronounced it Scene, I had never seen Sean spelled before. He was coming home from the hospital and a new brother was big news.
I was so excited.
Sean was very cute and very sweet. My mother was busy with bottles, naps, and diapers and she handled it all with grace and aplomb. It was when he was a bit older my parents noticed he was different.
At first Mom and Dad thought it might be just a passing phase but when it didn't change, they took him to a doctor, and that's when I first heard the word autistic.
You want to hear something funny? I thought they said artistic. I thought my brother was going to be a painter. It's hard enough grasping autism as an adult, try grasping it as a child.
Keep in mind, also, it was the mid 60's. Autism back then was a dark room.
I have to hand it to my parents, they never put Sean in a back room or hid him in any way. When our friends would come over, there he'd be, off in his own world but out front, a part of our family.
Talk about brave. And loving.
It seemed Sean was in and out of a thousand places as my parents tried to find the best care for him. I remember a time in Maryland, a time in Rhode Island.
My father, on one of his visits to see Sean, couldn't wait to tell me he had met Johnny Winter in the Providence airport. He told me he said to him, "I really like your song "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu." He said Johnny hesitated a bit and then said, "Thank you."
I didn't have the heart to tell my Dad that song was by Johnny Rivers.
I don't say wonderful lightly but they truly are. It's people like them who helped turn the light on in that dark room.
The more you know the more you know.
Sean lives there now and to be able to live his life with dignity...
I thank you CSAAC.
An epilogue...having an autistic brother has helped me to accept more readily people with handicaps. The next time you see someone, battling, be kind.
As the saying goes, there but for the grace of God....
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