Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Brother, My Friend


Justin and Joshua  - Summer of 2003
Justin, who was nine at the time, should have been able to do twice as much as Joshua who was five, but it didn’t work out like that.  They played together all the time, but Justin noticed he was “different” and couldn’t do the things that his little brother could do. At times, his frustration got the best of him and he wanted to give up, but Joshua’s tendency to include his big brother made Justin feel “normal”.  Never had this inclusion been as important to Justin as it was one day when I took the boys to play at the park.
As I pulled into the gravel parking lot, I noticed several kids already on the playground.  Afte we walked through the wrought iron gate, the boys took off running toward the swings.  Justin laughed as he ran clumsily behind his little brother and finally made it to his destination. He studied Joshua's every move, but couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of how to swing.  “Hold on.” I said and gave him a little push. Justin’s eyes lit up when he began to swing just like Joshua. 
I looked around and noticed a wooden bench under a pine tree just a few feet away.  I sat down and had pulled a book out of my blue tote bag when I saw a small group of kids running around.  They made their way to the swings and began to strike up a conversation with the boys.  Justin tried to talk with them, but they could not understand his gibberish.  The four kids began to focus their attention on Joshua and ignored Justin.  After talking for a few minutes, Joshua and his new friends ran off to play on the monkey bars leaving Justin by himself.  The smile disappeared from Justin’s face as he watched the other kids have fun without him.
My heart broke when he looked up at me with tears in his eyes.  “I play Joshy.”  He said as he pointed to the other kids.   “Do you want to swing some more?” I asked as I knelt down in front of him.  “I not do it.”  He said as he looked down at the ground.  “What about something to drink?”  I asked as I reached into my bag.  Justin sighed.  “No.  No tank you.”  He said. 
The sounds of the other children laughing and playing echoed across the playground as I sat in the swing beside him.  After we sat for a few minutes I saw Joshua and his buddies run toward Justin.  They were out of breath by the time they made it to him.  Joshua bent forward and placed his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath.  I was so proud of Joshua when he asked if Justin could play with them.  “It’s ok with me, but maybe you should ask him.” 
Justin's face lit up like a Christmas tree when Joshua asked if he wanted to play with them.  "Yeah!  Yeah!”  Justin squealed with excitement. Joshua then turned to the other kids and said “This is my brother Justin.  He has seizures in his head, but he likes to play just like us.”  Justin stood up and his new found friends waved to him.  “To the monkey bars!”  They all exclaimed as they ran off together.  Of course Justin lagged behind, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone.  My eyes filled with tears of joys when the other kids cheered Justin on until he made it to where they stood.
The kids played for a long time…running, laughing, having fun.  I decided it was time to go when I noticed some of the other kids leave to go home.  “Alright boys.  It’s time to go.”  I said as I stood up and swung the tote bag over my shoulder.   “Awwww mom!  Do we have to?”  Joshua asked looking up at me with his big brown eyes.  “Come on.”  I said with a tussle of his hair.  Justin had a sparkle in his eyes and a big smile on his sweet little face when he said “Dat fun Mama.”  “I’m glad you had fun, but I bet you’re tired.”  I said as I bent over to adjust the strap on his leg brace.  “I sweepy.”  He said as he rubbed his eyes.   “Both of you will probably sleep well tonight.”  I said when I stood back up.
As we began our walk to the car, I heard someone yell, “Justin!  Joshua!  Wait a minute!”  The three of us turned around to see a freckle faced little boy running towards us.  “Do you have to go now?”   He asked while looking up at me with big pleading blue eyes.  “I guess we can stay a little longer if they want to.”  I replied as I glanced in the boys’ direction.  Cheers filled the air as all three boys jumped up and down with excitement.
I watched the three of them run to the swings.  Justin sat down while Joshua and their  friend took turns pushing him.  Justin’s sweet laughter filled the air as he went higher and higher.  I realized at that moment how important this was for Justin.  After all, he wants what we all want….friends, love and acceptance.  Joshua without realizing what he had done, made that moment possible for his big brother just by letting the children know that Justin is just like them….a boy who wants to run, play and have fun.
Thanks to all my friends for reading,
Angela :)

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