If my mother reads this entry, she'll kill me

Just so you know what I am willing to sacrifice for the love of you people.


My cousin (let's call him Ben) and I are named after the same person, our grandfather. He is a few years younger than I am, but as I am an only child he is the closest thing I have to a brother. He is also legally deaf. His hearing is seriously impaired and the disability, although painfully obvious to myself ( even as a nine year old child), was left undiagnosed until very late. When the disability was unearthed, his parents decided to raise him as "normally" as possible. He was not taught sign language. He was not sent to a "deaf" school, he was not, as far as I know, even introduced to anyone else who suffered a similar type fo disability. Although some minor accomodations were made, it seemed as if my aunt and uncle preferred to remain in denial about my cousin's condition.

I used to joke that since Ben and I were named for the same deceased relative and we were both disabled that we had been cursed. But where Ben and I differed was that my parents did everything possible to help me develop despite the disability. I took dance classes and worked closely with a physical therapist. I also learned very quickly to go to school administration to make sure as many accomodations could be made for me. If it was possible to put my classes close together, they were. I usually kept two sets of books to keep a lighter book bag. Finally, I got my friends to help me as much as possible. In fact, carrying me from one building to another became a competition between my friends. We even teased about getting "Bunni Iron Man" t-shirts made.

But Ben was never fully rehabilitated. While I can easily hide my disability, Ben's speech impediment remained painfully clear to himself. In addition, instead of buying him the state of art hearing aides which could help him considerable, his parents spend money on under the counter discmans and extra bread machines. Ben remained painfully shy. Apparently feeling socially isolated, he was never sent to therapy of any kind. ( Including a support group from disabled teens.) Instead of going to therapy, he was thrown onto several drug protocols including ridelin for ADHD ( I watched this kid sit in a chair and read a 500 page novel in one afternoon without moving) and prozac for depression. For a while his affect was totally flattened. Gone. You could have gotten a more dramatic response from my cubicle wall. Then, as far as I knew, the drug therapies ended.

Ben continued to be quiet. I tried to talk to him, but it seemed like when I approached him it increased his anxiety so I simply allowed him to hang out. Ben also by this time had a very healthy younger brother. This brother was dynamic and outspoken, other family members flocked to him. I became concerned, but my aunt and uncle maintained that everything in their household was near idyllic.

How my family works

What you have to understand about my family is that they don't actually talk to each other, they converse in silence about each other. Oh yes, I know all families do, but with ours it's the only mode of communication. I've never actually seen a family fight. Ever. But as soon as you leave the room, you know that someone is whispering comments, or mouthing words or casting looks or making hand gestures of some kind. It's like a Pinter play, all innuendo and drama laden pauses. So, as you can imagine, finding out the details of situations involves of a sensitivity to protocol and understanding of nuance to rival the "stool etiquette" of the court of Louis XIV.

What I didn't see coming

My mother informed me this weekend that my cousin Ben had apprehended by the authorities for what the family referred to as "pornography." As we all know, pornography in itself isn't illegal. So extrapolating from the silence of the other family members, and his arrest, he was clearly involved in "kiddie porn."

My mother, who thinks she is superwoman without the jarring red cape, immediately wanted to send money to help my cousin. My response, extremely cold hearted, was, "You really should KNOW the charge before you offer to help. Besides you don't want to alienate your brother." So I managed to talk my mother into believing that before she should offer aide, she should really understand what the charges are, what the evidence is, and so forth.

And none of these details are forth coming. No one will actually say what Ben was caught with, what he has been charged with, all we know is that he has been kicked out of his home and is now living with my grandmother.

What do I do now?

My mother has reconciled herself that she can not possibly help until she knows what she is getting herself involved in. I feel conflicted. On some level, I feel that I saw this coming. Watching him grow isolated from other people, his social anxiety intensifying with age. The lack of support from his parents. The refusal of his parents to really help him effectively deal with his disability. On another, I feel guilty. As I failed to do something more to help him. There is an indentification I feel for him. As the only other disabled member of the family, I have often defended him. My grandmother often called him lazy or money hungry, and I always came to his defense arguing that his embarassment as his disability often warped how people perceived his behavior. As a fellow disabled person, I saw how ashamed he was of speaking and how difficult it was for him to follow group conversation. And yet, I do nothing.

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