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Dear Chris: A Letter to My Brother

April 9, 2020
Beth Ebert
Community Voices
A young woman wears a graduation cap and gown with a gold stole. She is sandwiched between her two brothers smiling exuberantly.

To my brother who is on the autism spectrum; my life is different because of you. 

I didn’t even know that you had a disability until other people brought it to my attention. To me, you were just my high energy, easily frustrated, kind-hearted older brother. My whole life, I have witnessed the bullying, systemic oppression, and lack of support and assistance that you endure. I feel a responsibility to protect you and I’ve overlooked feelings of resentment when our parents and relatives ask me how you are doing, rather than asking me how I am doing. My love for you and my desire to help you move every barrier that you face is why you are a consideration in every major decision that I make in my life. 

I obtained my Master’s in Social Work because your access to the independent life you want is limited by the broken systems that you are forced to live within, and I wanted to learn how to fix that for you. It has since become my mission to find a way to connect people with disabilities to more sustainable and equitable jobs. When that mission brought me to NYC, I felt guilty for moving but I know that you are safe and healthy where you are and you always know that I am just a phone call away. 

My future is hard to imagine because securing your future is a huge priority of mine. I have every intention of being your primary guardian as we age, so my life (spouse, children, location, career) must accommodate that. One part of my future that is easy to imagine is that you will always be a positive part of it. As my brother, you have taught me so much about how to love the many different aspects of another person. You have taught me how to consider new perspectives and persevere. You have taught me how to be silly and how to be myself. You have taught me not to be afraid of what is different, but to love and rejoice in what is different. 

As your sister, I have learned that it is okay to demand some attention for myself. It is okay to seek out my own support system and to tend to my own needs. I have learned that I cannot protect you from everything, just as you cannot protect me from everything. I have learned that our parents might just know what is right for you (sometimes) and I have practiced letting others help you, so I can take care of myself. I have learned that you and I will never stop learning how to be good siblings to each other and I have learned that you are the best gift that a sister could ask for.  

To my older brother who is on the autism spectrum; my life is better because of you.