Jacob Tucker’s brother just turned 24. And it’s time Jacob told him what he really thinks about him.
It just hit me that you’ll be 24 years old soon. 24! That’s a man, bro! Can you believe it? I’ve been thinking about our relationship these past 24 years and all the good times we’ve had. Like when we shared a room and stayed up late at night playing games we made up. Remember teacher and student? Rhyme time? The sock game?? Remember the camaraderie we built by picking on our little brother? It’s a wonder he still likes us.
I’ve also remembered some of the many things I’m sorry for.
I’m sorry that I blamed you when I highlighted everything on a bunch of mom and dad’s checks. I’m sorry about that time I was throwing you the baseball and I got frustrated that you couldn’t hit it. I’m sorry that when we were going to school and you wanted to hold my hand that I pushed it away for fear that my friends would see. I’m sorry for that one time that someone was making fun of you outside The Donut Palace and instead of being mad at him, for the moment, I just wanted you to stop being you.
I knew you were different, I just didn’t know how to handle it. It hurts me to admit that for a time in my late childhood I wished I could change you.
Thankfully, you changed me.
I remember in high school someone asked me, “Isn’t there something wrong with your brother?”
Finally I said, “No. He has autism, but there’s nothing wrong with him.”
I remember a poignant moment in the kitchen when mom and I were talking about a child who had a severe handicap and you asked, “Mom, am I severe?”
With a tear in her eye she said, “No, you’re perfect.”
As I got older I realized a deal breaker for any girlfriend I had was how she reacted to you. I’m so glad that you now call my wife sister and that somehow she’s the only one who could ever get you to sing out loud. You have a really nice voice by the way.
And that little brother of ours? He’s grown up to be the kind of brother to you that I could only dream of being.
You’ve taught me more than you’ll ever know. Likely more than I’ll ever know. Like how peaceful sitting in a front porch swing can be. How the simple joy of getting a yahtzee can’t be overstated. How everyone deserves a hug and to be seen for the good they possess. And how every moment we experience can be pointed to something deeper if we let it.
Now, I never want you to stop being you.
We’ve shared many things, but nothing has been worth sharing more than our last name. Thank you for these past 24 years and for giving me the hope of looking forward to the next 24, and the next 24, and the next 24….
This is an open letter to my brother as he approaches his 24th birthday, but it could echo for anyone who has been touched by mental disability. For more on my brother check out Like a Crown: Adventures in Autism by my father, Robert L. Tucker available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books.
Photo courtesy of author