by Candice Blackstone
When I turned nine in 2005, my parents adopted me. They asked me if maybe I would like a sibling. After I said sure, we sat down and decided on a little four-year-old boy. Even though I wanted a brother, the fact that I had a rough background and that I didn’t trust anyone made me feel like they wanted to replace me. My parents kept telling me this little boy was sick and the doctors told us he wouldn’t live past five.
When I understood that he was ill and that he had a little under a year to live, I got scared. When he came to the house, I saw how different he was. After seeing how different he truly was, I felt I shouldn’t worry about caring and loving him, because he wasn’t going to live. No kid had ever stayed long enough, so I realized that I didn’t have to get to know him. As a little girl, not loving someone who was not staying made 100% sense.
I started to notice that not only was he sick and dying, but he also had a serious diagnosis. He had special needs, one of which was Down Syndrome. He wasn’t able to talk, run, play, understand things around him, or see very far. He had a G-Tube and a Trach. It seemed like every other week he would be in the hospital. Every time he went I got scared, but with all this going on, my brother Rodney still could smile. As we started to do things with him like camping, going to the playground, dancing, going everywhere we could, he started to get tons better.
He started to look like he didn’t even have Down Syndrome (even though he did). He would do all the things that all little kids could do. His trach and his G-tube came out and he talked and laughed. As time went by, God showed me that Rodney indeed was going to stay with us forever. In my heart I knew this little boy was mine for as long as he lived, no matter if it was a year or more.
Along with joy there was tons of anger and pain. Not necessarily towards Rodney, but more towards myself and my parents. My anger came from being a child that no one wanted. A loner child who was abused and neglected from love, life, and joy. I felt that since he was getting more attention that they somehow loved him more then they loved me. Looking back I know that was insane.
The other side of this anger was anger toward people not loving their own children. How could someone look at a child and think of him or her as a burden? I know I was a troubled kid, but my brother went through so much neglect that he could have died anytime, anywhere on any day. It was disturbing to wake up each day afraid for your brother. When I wanted someone to talk to, or a brother to protect me, it seemed like he wasn’t there. To see him go to the hospital every other week, not knowing if the doctors would come out and say, “Oh by the way he is about to die in a few minutes,” was just unbearable.
The pain was just as bad. Waking up at night scared and checking up on him. People just never understood how Rodney’s life affected mine. If he was sick so was I, not physical but emotional. If he was in pain so was I, not from needles but from thoughts. If he was laughing then I was crying, not from pain but from knowing he lived another day. If he was crying then I was in agony, not from sadness but from pain that was eating him up.
When he took his medicines I gulped not because it was nasty but hoping that those medicines would cure him. If he was injured then I was bleeding, not from a sore but hoping he wouldn’t have to be in the hospital again. When he was talking to God and laughing I was praying, not for grace but for forgiveness. Forgiveness for every time I didn’t sit with him, hug him, or kiss his cheek.
His sorrow was my own. His pain, pleasure, happiness, joy, neglect, and love was mine as well. We went through it all together and we survived. Through all of this pain, I believe that this little dude was my hero. How he made it through life and still is living. How he managed to be happy when the world was cruel. How he loved when everyone lost their patience.
He was my hero even when I got frustrated when he got the attention or when he wasn’t listening or seemed to be trying hard enough. When indeed he did try, he did understand, but how was he supposed to tell me? When I needed someone he was there smiling, holding my hand. My pain was not being able to be more like him. Having to see the world through my eyes and not his, now that’s pain.
After he lived with us for about a year, I started to notice people and how they reacted to him. The way they would stare, laugh, point, snicker, or just plain ask what was wrong with him just made me want to explode. I used to look down embarrassed, then as I got older I would either roll my eyes, walk away, ask them what was wrong with them, look confused, ignore them, or I would take my brother’s hand and hold it.
What people seem not to understand about my brother and me is that even though we are very different in color, size, age, and mental abilities, we are siblings. We have a bond, and nothing can break it. The way he and I can just hug and not worry about what other people think is simply amazing. I am protective and very defensive. People everyday seem to forget that though he is different, he has value. He is special to me, because he taught me how to trust people, so naturally I am grateful and I love him so much.