Today is my brother’s birthday, something I first wrote about a year ago. Near the end of that post, I included these words:
” I sure wish I–we–could give him more, and that in the pages of the days in the coming year he might find…a life with more independence, freedom, and connection to his fellow humans.”
There are many wishes I put out into the universe over the course of 2018. Most seem not to have been answered (yet, or maybe not in ways I hoped they would be). But this one, it was, and if I had to choose only one of my wishes to be granted in the previous 12 months, it would be this one.
In the past year, my brother has made a transition from living in our parents’ home to living in an Adult Family Home for developmentally disabled adults. This has been in the works for several years. My parents, along with other aging parents of adults unable to live without assistance, joined forces to create a home and community for their children.
My parents have worked long and hard to make this transition happen, first in working with the community and agencies to bring the house into existence, and then to ensure that it would be a place that met my brother’s needs. The transition for Joe from their home to his new one was slow and executed with lots of caution and planning. In Joe’s 20s, they tried to find a place for him to live away from them, and it failed miserably, for a lot of reasons. This time, he’s been involved from the beginning, attending board meetings and fund-raisers and seeing the house as it was renovated.
It has been a strange and amazing experience for all of us, but especially for my parents and Joe, who had lived every day together for nearly 55 years. So much in my life has been topsy-turvy in terms of traditional timelines (which is what happens when you marry an older person with half-grown children while you’re still in your 20s), and this added another unusual wrinkle: Both my parents and I have been adjusting to empty nests at the same time.
What has been most wonderful, though, is seeing my brother blossom. There’s really no other word for the change in him. He is non-verbal, so I can’t know exactly how it is for him, but he just feels different. Happier. He has a community of peers, and he’s out in his larger community every day. He contributes to his household. He has his own life, and while I have had moments of sorrow and regret that this is coming to him so late in life, I am mostly just so grateful that it’s come at all. It is something we never thought possible.
My mother has expressed some surprise at how it’s all gone, and at how he has changed. She’s been surprised at how easily he’s taken to such a profound change, after so many years.
“Mom, ” I said, “no one wants to live with their parents forever.”
It’s been a hard year in many ways for me, but this development has been a bright, sweet spot. His home is supported by Olympic Neighbors, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating homes and healthy, meaningful, and community-based lives for adults with developmental disabilities in Jefferson County, Washington. If you’d like to support them, you can learn more about how to do that here.
Wishing all of you good things in the year to come. Thank you for riding along on all the journeys with me here.