Brother Lost - My Dealings with Asperger Syndrome and family dysfunction

Source

Disclaimer

Please note the following story is my personal assessment of my brother's condition based on extensive research, talking to other family members and consulting with several doctors and counselors schooled in this type of disorder. To the best of my knowledge he was not diagnosed as a child or an adult but he demonstrates textbook symptoms and behaviors of Aspergers Syndrome.

Growing up and having no clue

Let's take a ride in the way back machine to the mid 1950s. WWII was over by a decade and young familys and teens were immersed in the American dream. My parents married on June 12, 1950 and had the first of four children on January 26th, 1954, a son. Three children followed in rapid succession. Me, in 1955, my middle brother in 1956 and my youngest brother in 1960. My dad worked a full time job, they bought several houses the second of which they lived in for 43 years where we were raised. Mom went back to work when i was 8 years old or so and worked until she retired. Dad worked until he retired too some 30 years later.

My focus of this story is my relationship with my older brother, whom for the sake of privacy I will call Kenny, and how my assessment ( see disclaimer above) of his Aspergers Syndrome condition affects me and my family. I always sensed there was something different about Kenny, even as a young child, I just couldn't put my finger on it. We were never close, never shared secrets, never really played together or bonded as I recall. I really have no fond memories of us together. He never behaved in the sense of how an "older brother" should, protective of his sister or his siblings. He was a sideline kind of guy, reserved, quiet, a loner, absorbed in his own world. I recall we bickered a lot as children. I found it was really easy to push his buttons and then the fight was on. My mom often had to pull us apart. As I blossomed into a young teenager and started dating or had boys come to call, they never had to pass the "older brother" test. At the time I found that disappointing, especially when my girlfriends had very protective brothers and their suitors had hell to pay to get past the front door. I knew Kenny was different, but in those days there was no knowledge of ADD or ADHD or parents running their children to the doctor to diagnose if Johnny was depressed much less has a disorder like Aspergers Syndrome. So life when on and we kids grew up, graduated from high school and some of us from college. Several of us moved away to other cites, but Kenny stayed home and lived with my parents for years. Never dated, never had a girl friend, just stayed in the safe cocoon of my parents home while he worked a full time job. What few friends he had from childhood also grew up, married and moved away.

My parents visited me one time when I was in my early thirties after my first divorce. The topic of Kenny came up and mom admitted to me he still lived at home. By this time he was in this mid thirties and seemed to have no intention of moving. My parents were both retired by then and wanting all the children to fly the nest. She asked me what to do? I told her if you want Kenny to move you are going to have to tell him to move. He will never do it on his own. I heard after they returned home that they gave him 30 days to find an apartment. He did move and found a studio apartment one mile from their house which he still lives in, that was some 25 years ago.

Over the years it always bothered me, what is wrong with Kenny, why is he so different? I talked to my middle brother and learned I had company in my boat. He felt the estrangement too. He only lives a 4 hour drive from Kenny but Kenny never initiates a desire to drive out and visit. He told me a story of how he invited Kenny out to visit him one time. Surprisingly Kenny accepted and made the 4 hour drive, but once he got there was only willing to stay a very short time and then insisted upon jumping back in his car and driving home that same day.

He has the same issues with most types of communication as well. He doesn't call, doesn't write, and conversation with him can be an exercise in frustration because Aspergers is typified by social dysfunction, expressing inappropriate things and lack of social skills. People afflicted by this syndrome do not or can not bond in the normal way with family or external relationships. An attempt to hug him would be like hugging a tree, there is no warmth there, no bond. They are somewhat trapped in a world that is comfortable for them which is often demonstrated by a very routine dogmatic lifestyle. They are often focused on specific things, eras or time frames usually to the point of being encyclopedic about it. Negating them from being able to focus on current events or emotional attachments. Ironically enough, the job that he has held for a number of years is in sales and apparently he is good at what he does in the sales world. I think the kicker here is that he doesn't have to make an emotional attachment with the person he is trying to sell something to. In that arena though it is still routine, the same sales approach, selling the same types of things over the years.

He used to sent me birthday cards, which I believe were at my mother's insistence, but sadly he would merely sign them "From your brother, Kenny" there was never a note, long or short. No emotion, no expressed love to his sibling sister. As the years flew by I would venture back to visit family and my secret hope was always maybe this time, this trip, Kenny would be different, healed somehow and I would have the brother that was lost to me. My counselor told me years later that was never going to happen. He was who he was, and he probably has a condition that prevents him from being the person I want him to be.

Acceptance is difficult and painful to know that I may never hear words like, " I miss you,I Iove you, I'm glad we are brother and sister" because of this. Those that have family member with Aspergers Syndrome or Autism can certainly relate and empathize with how this affects family and relationships. Here are several links to learn more about this condition.

http://www.aspergers.com/

http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms

http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=life_aspergers

More by this Author


Comments 10 comments

Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

What can one say about the relationship? Some are more emotional and committed than others. Along with the ADD and ADHD come a host of problems that last a lifetime and hurt everyone involved. Best anyone can do encourage the behavior you hope for and then accept whatever is given. The long trip and brief visit is all this disturbed person could give and the long trip indicates to me, he gave it his best shot. For me, I'd give a big hand to him, for the effort which should be measured as quality time, not quantity time. IF he has autism, that was an incredible effort! See my article with BEN and Tiny Tim ( very short 3 minute stories) to get to know me and then later this week I'm posting a BIG STORY entitled "A CHAT WITH MRS.CAUSEY that may give you insight. I've worked in Special Ed all my life and have seen it all. Give them all the love you can and then hope for the best and anticipate baby steps. RJ


writinginalaska profile image

writinginalaska 5 years ago from southeast Alaska Author

RJ, thank you for your read and your insightful comments. I almost didn't hit the publish button, it was a difficult one to write. lvh


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

And... the relationship may never be what you would hope for. Accept it as one of life's disappointments and do not let it hurt you.


Don Simkovich profile image

Don Simkovich 5 years ago from Pasadena, CA

I'm glad you found the words to write about this. My wife and I have adopted our four kids out of foster care from '89 to '94 and then we had two guardians in the past several years move in with us. Most of our children had emotional and developmental delays. It's a burden I've carried around but have not expressed much. Writing about it has been difficult. So it's good you are able to express your thoughts and I'm sure it will be helpful for other families, too.


writinginalaska profile image

writinginalaska 5 years ago from southeast Alaska Author

Don, thank you for the read and your kind words. I have been harboring those feelings for years, and although it doesn't change the situation, it felt a little better to get it on paper so to speak. I would encourage you to write about your experiences too and share with the Hub community. All my best lvh


Emma 5 years ago

YEs, my older brother is the same....undiagnosed aspie, no friends, never calls, never initiates...although he married a woman (who hated me on sight) who has been good for him but bad for the family. We had a totally dysfunctional upbringing - and both loved & hated my alcoholic mother. WHen she died, he asked the person doing the autopsy to check for poisons, thinking I killed her. He then cut off all contact with me.....sad.


DIYweddingplanner profile image

DIYweddingplanner 4 years ago from South Carolina, USA

Lvh, this makes me sad for several reasons, but mostly for you, in the world of an individual with Asperger's, they are happy. Or at least satisfied. They don't feel the longing for closeness we do and meet our desire for warmth and intimacy mostly with confusion or indifference. If you can look at it in the aspect that it's the way they are wired, it will help. They have no control over the way they are. It's not a choice. I hope you find peace within yourself with that understanding.


badegg profile image

badegg 4 years ago from Southern Appalachians

Very interesting. I have an older brother, born in 1951 that has many of the same characteristics as your brother. "Tim" was very withdrawn socially, but eventually opened up in a very guarded way to only a certain group of friends and family. He was eventually diagnosed with "mild" Aspergers, but only after his daughter was dignosed with a more intense case about ten years ago. She is in her early 20's now. Tim and I are 6 years apart.

I have a good connection with Tim. He is very intelligent, but seems to get lost in a conversation, sticking only to one topic and "rambling" endlessly about it. I interrupt him by saying "Tim! Stop! Your Asperger's is kicking in!" He pauses and recollects his thoughts and moves on. He has been an optometrist on the west coast for the past 30 years and is ready to retire now.

Now I have a 30 year old daughter that is developmentally disabled with Fragile X syndrome, but many of her anomalies mimic Asperger's.

Such is life. We can't stop loving these members of our family, we just need to continue to be there for them.


qeyler profile image

qeyler 3 years ago

What I love about your article is the fact that Kenny is 'text book'. Any of us, doing a random Google, reading Wikipedia would come to the same conclusion.

In the 'old days' there wasn't any 'artsy-craftsy mental cracksy' so if you weren't barking mad, grossly retarded, you were normal.

Recently a chap (who could be your brother if he had a different profession) took up a position here. I almost instantly diagnoised him as having Aspergers.

Again, we are talking 'text-book' here. You, without seeing him, hearing him, can tell me how this guy responds to anything that is discordant to his construct.

Yet, with two so called psycho-therapists in close proximity, neither has diagnoised him, neither has 'noticed' the strangeness about him.

If you jumped into a time machine and carried your brother to one of these quacks, if you gave them all the 'key words' they may diagnose him, and then you can sell your house to pay for therapy which won't work.

The problem for people like your brother is a kind of missing emotional chip, (to put it simply). He really doesn't see his difference, he doesn't see what everyone else does, focused on his job, or making his breakfast, or making his bed.


writinginalaska profile image

writinginalaska 3 years ago from southeast Alaska Author

thank you for your comments qeyler. You pretty much hit the nail on the head. A recent visit this last spring to visit family proved to be typically unfruitful. I received an email from him ( the first one in 40 years) with exactly two sentences saying he was excited for my visit. The family reunion party he sat at the table completely ignoring me and babbling about the 1970's like it was yesterday. This is his comfort zone. Socializing with me isn't. Sigh... but this is who he is and this is what Aspergers is all about.

Submit a Comment
New comments are not being accepted on this article at this time.
Click to Rate This Article
working