A Creative Take on Sensory Processing: Part Two4 min read

This is part 2 of a 4‑part series.  If you haven’t read it yet, click here to read part 1.

Family also leaves an imprint that is dif­fi­cult to erase. My mom is the second youngest of nine–seven sib­lings she speaks to reg­u­larly, and one she only talks to when his kids are selling mint thins. He’s the out­cast.

My sister used to nanny for him when his kids were little. She grad­u­ated high school at six­teen, and she needed some­thing to do before she could start her chosen career path of a bar­tender. My mom and I helped out during sum­mers. She works at a school, and I’m a pris­oner of learning, so we both had three months of freedom. We spent a lot of time at his house, so I found it strange when sud­denly everyone in my imme­diate family cut ties with him. 

At first, I thought it had to do with the aunt my mom is closest to. She moved from California to Illinois with her five kids into a house owned by two of her brothers. The brothers screwed each other over, and the whole family learned a lesson about mixing family and busi­ness.

Looking back, it explains why the rela­tion­ship between my aunts and uncles has been so tense, but it doesn’t explain my moth­er’s reac­tion. She hates con­fronta­tion, and it is unlike her to take sides.

I never gave it much thought. We were never espe­cially close to Peter. He was a joke. Most of what I knew about him fil­tered down through my dad, who saw him as the irra­tional guy who refused to eat our food because he only eats food he makes him­self or is made by strangers at a restau­rant.

Around Christmas time, I finally learned the reason for the rift. My mom, my dad, and my sister were lounging on the couch, and I heard my name come up, along with Peter’s. My sister openly pro­fessed her ani­mosity towards him. At first, I don’t think anyone real­ized I had walked into the room because the con­ver­sa­tion quickly turned from frank to eva­sive.

All I could piece together was that Peter had said some­thing offen­sive and it had to do with me. I don’t know what could have been said to pro­duce such a strong reac­tion. I could guess it had some­thing to do with my autism, or a shot at my intel­li­gence, some impli­ca­tion that I would never amount to any­thing. When it first came up, I begged them to tell me why they were so upset, but they refused.

My life is con­structed in such a way that I’m either the second or the last to know every­thing. Sometimes people in the family die, and I don’t hear about it until days later. Why aren’t you dressed yet? We have a wake to go to. Someone died!

My mother hates the idea of me feeling pain, and goes to great lengths to avoid hurting me. But my family loves to gossip, almost as much as we love to shop.  Being the qui­etest member of the family, people easily forget I’m in the room. I was the second to find out my dad lost his job, the second to find out he had been arrested each of his three arrests. 

Still, I’m not sur­prised that after all this time, they still won’t tell me the truth. Part of me wants to know. Part of me appre­ci­ates that my mom and sister would cut ties with someone out of devo­tion to me.

But then I think about every inap­pro­priate com­ment other family mem­bers have said at my expense that didn’t inspire such devo­tion. Most came from my dad’s side of the family, my dad leading the way.  Gay.  Girly.  Fairy. Stupid. The insults lost meaning. They became words to roll your eyes at, but they didn’t hurt. Hugs hurt. Words are just words. I found the teasing annoying. It had the power to turn a moment instantly awk­ward. But it never stung deep. When the sound of wrap­ping presents can make me cry in agony, a little insult couldn’t pen­e­trate the thick walls I had built around me. 

The thing that came closest to hurting me wasn’t the slurs but the con­stant mocking of my speech imped­i­ment. Seemingly every time I pro­nounced a word incor­rectly, I had the blunder echoed back to me. I couldn’t (can’t) pro­nounce the letter “r,” so basi­cally every sen­tence.

My mom always took my side, and if she was there to stop it, she did. But that didn’t make the teasing any less per­va­sive. But I never let it define me. I never ques­tioned my iden­tity. Yet, it forced me to rely so heavily on my own per­cep­tions to sus­tain my ego to that it inevitably cre­ated dis­tance between my family and me.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.


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