I.e. my brother: the last surviving member of my immediate family. What it means as a diagnosis: as we always knew, he is undefinable, but he shows symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. What it means to me: the last surviving member of my immediate family speaks a different emotional language from me.
One of the most painful things about my current lot in life is that the only family I have left neither understands nor shares in my process of grief. My surviving brother concluded his grieving process within the time span of a couple of weeks. All three of my loved ones who died understood different aspects of me - the weaker, emotional aspects - and appreciated them, and even loved me for them. It's not that my surviving brother doesn't "get" me (as it often is with family), but rather he does not comprehend how grief and sadness can be pervasive and intrusive, as he possesses the uncanny (and enviable) ability to 'switch off' such irrational emotions. He doesn't understand what it's like to fall victim to loneliness, or the feeling of abandonment or rejection. He stares blankly at me when I cry - sympathetic, perhaps, but to me it appears almost angry, as though I've inconvenienced him by forcing him to bow to the social convention of having to try to comfort me. (Incidentally, he has told me he uses this blog as a tool to try and find some logical, underlying process to my emotions.)
I write poetry, every day of my life. Most of it is implicit, unconventional, and utilizes techniques that I know he would never appreciate - like the new sentence. Every poem I write is a little piece of my soul that I release from my protective body out into the world. I never show him my poetry, because I know that his inability to appreciate it (should he not approve of my choice of technique) would feel to me a manifestation of how alien I am to him.
Today I wrote a poem about pussycats. It rhymed, as my poetry rarely does, and it followed a traditional iambic structure. I wrote it as something cute, perhaps for kids - something explicit; more prosaic than my typical style. The poem was, at its core, an expression of the hope that I have struggled so long to find, and that I now embrace with all the energy I have within me. If anything, I thought, this is the piece of my soul he might be able to understand; the piece of my soul with which he may be able to connect. I took a risk, and I sent it to him. He said to me:
I don't really like it. I don't like the story, and I find the wording awkward to read.
I shouldn't have expected anything more from him, but I did. Even if he had hated it, I was still expecting something - I'm not really sure - perhaps like "aw, how cute, you wrote a rhyming poem about pussycats," or "well, it's no Emerson or Shakespeare, but that's cute, Tee." Such a phrase (while certainly not a rave review) would at least express a recognition and acknowledgement of the significance that I'm writing about pussycats instead of about death - as I have been doing for a very long time.
I instantly burst into tears. Not because he didn't like my poem (I write poetry for myself, and appreciate that many or maybe most will dislike it). I started crying because he, unknowingly, spat into my face a reminder that every family member who could understand the language of my soul has been taken from me.
So when people say to me: "thank God you still have your brother" -- yes! Thank God I still have my brother! But no -- even with my dear big brother here to love and protect me (as he's been socialised to do), I don't feel any less an orphan.