Thursday, April 26, 2007

He ain't heavy.... he's my brother

Spring Flowers photograph Copyrighted: Rachelle Black

First of all, let me apologize to my friend Gattina- I promise I am working on a post that will tell you in great detail the difference between a llama and an alpaca! But, sometimes the muse bites and if you don't listen and write furiously she will desert you to find a more willing ear, so.

This is about a wonderful human being. A sweet soul who came here to Earth to make my time on this planet a bit better. My little brother Jamey. I am 42 now, and he is going to be 37 so we are undeniably getting on towards middle age and he is about a foot taller than me- but to me he will always be my baby brother.

In 1970 my mother was pregnant. After 6 miscarriages, the doctor had told her to stop trying until they could figure out what was wrong and put her on birth control..... oops- didn't work.

I was just 5 years old at the time and all I knew was that I was going to have a baby. As my mother grew in girth, the question was raised that she might be carrying twins. Perfect! I said, one for mommy and one for me!! We have quite a gap between my older sister and me- 14 years to be exact. I was only 8 years old when my sister married, and all I remember is crying at her wedding, running after her in my little flower girl dress with the tiny green and yellow daisies, sure I would never see my big sister again. So I was delighted at the chance to have a baby brother or sister who would be mine- to keep. I assured my mother that this one wasn't going to get married... ever.

One day with me in tow, my mother went to the doctor- she was three weeks overdue, and humongous, seriously- she looked like she was carrying triplets, all of them weighing about 9 lbs.
After doing a checkup, the doctor exclaimed: "The baby's in the birth canal, get to the hospital, NOW!" After getting me to a friend's house and contacting my dad, she did.

The doctor broke her water and nothing happened, so they induced labor. 8 hours later, the doctor does an exam, baby is not in birth canal anymore, and after cussing, the doctor tells my mother there is another bag of water! After the rupture of this sac, mom goes into hard labor, but she isn't dilating past 3 centimeters.... Hours later the doctor is pacing and muttering about losing the mother AND the baby. (can you say: C-Section?!? Anyone??!!) At 3:00 am he finally rips and tears his way in, and removes my little brother with forceps. Thus Thomas James Morrison the second was born. All 9 lb 12 oz of him.
Then, another little one was removed- never fully formed, but having a full term water sack and placenta.

Jamey came home to me all in one piece, and beautiful. After making sure he had 10 fingers and toes, I took him and raised him.........
Okay, maybe my mom helped a little.

When Jamey got to the age of one year, it was apparent something was different about him. He loved the vacuum and would lay his head on it while it was running. He loved spinning things, anything that spun by itself, and whatever he could make spin. He was a delightful little boy, sweet of face and loving. But what was troubling was that he didn't show any inclination to talk.

As he got to the age of two, he would have temper tantrums, not unusual for that age, but Jamey would bang his head on the ground- carpet, wood floors- cement, didn't matter, and he would hurt himself doing it. He was obsessive about his food- it had to be separated into compartments, and none of the differing food items could touch one another. He ate on a yellow enamel plated camp plate for every meal for about 12 years.

He would take a Bermuda grass stem (you know the seed heads that look like propellers?) and sit by himself for hours spinning it. He would rock back and forth and hum, but still wasn't talking. By the age of four he was running my mother in circles, couldn't focus on any activity for more than a few minutes, and still wasn't talking. He isolated himself to his room or out in the backyard.

After several doctors tests and exams, they said he was Autistic, Aphasic, Hyper Active and Hyper Kenetic. Their recommendation? Institutionalize him. He would never live a "normal" life, and it would be too great a strain on our family to keep him at home. Now, this was 1974 and not much was known about Autism. There wasn't special education then, and the knowledge that getting a child like this into a structured environment at a very young age, where they could receive things like personal IEP's and specialized behavior programs wasn't even in the vocabulary of the medical profession yet. But my mother slapped the doctor and said I'm taking him home... okay, she didn't slap him, but she took him home. She researched and found everything she could find about his diagnosis' and miraculously found a place that specialized in developmental disabilities. Providence Speah and Hearing center- in the city of Orange. This wonderful school became a pioneer in the field of special education, and set the blueprint for many programs to follow.

In a few short months Jamey started talking, and hasn't stopped ever since. My mother studied everything she could find about Autism and followed all the current recommendations- she painted his room the right colors, avoided certain food colors and followed the reward/consequences behavior programs to a tee. Jamey learned how to control his outbursts, and redirect his focus.

Eventually Jamey was mainstreamed onto a regular education campus, while still in special education, or as they called it then Learning Handicapped, or 'LH' classes. Always emotionally much more immature than his peers, Jamey suffered tremendous humiliation and derision from his so called 'friends' growing up. His heart was broken ever so many times as he tried again and again to fit in and was tormented time and again by the same individuals who claimed to be his buddies. He perservered and by the time he reached high school age he was in regular education classes, and graduated only one year behind his class. He made lifelong friends among those like him, with mild to moderate disabilities both mental and physical. He became a leader among them, organized regular UNO tournaments and river trips with my father on his boat, and after graduation, became the organizer for their reunions. When his best friend died after a long struggle with kidney failure and years of dialysis, Jamey kept the group together, and they made it through the veil of grief without implosion. Jamey was given Ritalin as a young child, and it helped him to remain focused and function. When he was a teenager he made the decision to stop taking them on his own, and when he was ready.

Jamey learned how to live, work, and abide by the social rules and regulations that structure 'normal' life. Struggling continuously with his emotional challenges, he was none the less able to maintain a long term job with a pizza joint run by a wonderful man who became like a father to Jamey. He also had a long term job at Magic Mountain in the food industry.

I could go on and on- about how difficult just living in the 'normal' world is to this day for him. About how depression is a problem, how he was married, and divorced, and all the other struggles he has had to live through- but I don't want to. What I want is to talk about how proud I am of him, and how far he has come.

So, I will tell you about Jamey in 2007. Jamey has lived in Las Vegas by himself for many years now, moving out of the family home when he was in his 20's. He was offered a management position with Papa John's Pizza place, but chose to remain as a driver- where he makes more money. He is maintaining a steady relationship with a wonderful woman who just finished getting her degree in Nuclear Medicine. Has worked as a tour guide in Vegas for a few different companies, and as a short and long haul trucker. He is the best driver I know, and is the owner of two cars, and owns a third with his girlfriend.

He still is the sweetest young man I have ever known. Kind and loving, affectionate, gentle, and generous. Loves the Three Stooges, can do a wicked Curly imitation, and will sit and watch Sesame Street with his big sister to this day. He loves scary movies, skulls and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. How despite the name of his website, he loves his Father in Heaven and can't fool anyone. Loved by his niece and nephew, treasured by his sister, adored by his mother and father.

Institutionalized.... just think about it. What a waste of a wonderful human being. Would he have turned out different if that stupid doctor had done a c-section? I don't know, but I know my life is richer for this outcome.

I love you baby brother! Visit Jamey here at:


Shrink wrapped scream said...

The power and stark honesty of your writing has completley blown me away. I had to shut my laptop down, and come back when I felt brave enough to comment. You are a powerful force girl, and a huge talent. Far more, you (and your brother), are a wonderful testomony to the courage and irrepresibility of the human spitit (and I can't spell for toffee, so cut me some slack here). Thank you for your wonderful, moving and encouraging post. I've peeked into his site, moved beyond the scary entrance, and found a courageus, warm and tender person in there. I hope everyone signs his visitors book, he deserves it. Thank you for making me the richer for having been here. Big hugs. xx

Shrink wrapped scream said...

ps. Forgot to say - WOW -Love that photo!

david mcmahon said...

Hi Rachelle,

Nice work. And what a great photograph. Whew - good blog.

By the way, Terry Fletcher has replied to your query on my blog. It's posted as a comment on the same post where you left your query.

There's also a link to the blog Terry's Sandbox (his work) which I think will become a great resource for bloggers.

Take care

David aka aussiejourno

Shrink wrapped scream said...

David (above) wanted me to mention that he's up-dated "Click, Click Here They Are" that he posted on Sunday, so your blog url now appears first.

I was talking about this post with him. Please enter it on the weekly blog awards, on his site. If you don't, then I shall. You deserve a wider readership! x

Fletch said...

Thanks for this post. I don't think I need to add any more!

Rachelle Black said...

Dear Shrink-
Wow, you made me cry! I am totally blown away by your comment... Thank you so much, it means so much to me- especially since I admire your writing ever so much!
Okay, I need a tissue... *sniff-sniff*
Ps... never apologize for spelling errors, there are no grammar police here!

Rachelle Black said...

Dear David,
Why thank you so much! I love that photo too, I had about 40 of them I took that year (that would be the year of the rain My computer died last summer and I lost about 250 photographs.... this was one of them I just happened to save!
I will visit your blog and read up on all the advice, I really want to put my kid's Celtic music up.

Rachelle Black said...

Dear Fletch,
Thanks ever so much for the nice comment! And thank you for stopping by to visit little old me :))
Hope to see you again!

david mcmahon said...

Hi Rachelle,

You'll see the latest Star Tech post on my blog has a link to your site, and also posts Terry's response to your question - for the benefit of other bloggers.

Good luck and stay in touch.



Rachelle Black said...

Oh, BTW Shrink- I can't nominate myself, I would feel so weird about it! Okay, I realize I AM weird, but still....

Shrink wrapped scream said...

Then I shall do it for you, you silly ass!! (Everyone nominates themself there, me included.) Putting you up there totally shoots me in the foot, but hey. somehow, this week, I don't think I'll mind..

Rachelle Black said...

Shrink (why do I feel as if I should pay you everytime I type that?? :))
You are very sweet. Thanks a million!
You know, I think you would like to read- Life and Death on a farm, and Twas the night before Christmas. In that order so you have it all set up. I think the first one is in the November archives. Then The Sari Incident is my funny post I think.
I feel like my heart went into the first two and perhaps others might feel the depth of emotion that incident caused in our home.

phaseoutgirl said...


I stumbled upon your site from Shrink and David...

Your strength shows in your writing. I always admire strong women.

And your brother is very lucky to have you... thank you for sharing such a beautiful story...

I shall keep coming back!


Rachelle Black said...

Dear Cecilia,
Thank you very much! and I loved visiting your blog today, it is so nice to read someone's adventures :))
I'll be back to visit you soon.

Shrink wrapped scream said...

Oh, I can't wait to read them - I'm starting NOW!! (Don't interrupt..)


Shrink wrapped scream said...

Darn, I can't find them, AND I've been interupted (kid's are home and hungry) Not today ('cos you need to keep this current post up for that nomination I told you about), but tomorrow, can you do me a huge favour, and re-publish them so they come up as your most current posts? If you take them in edit, select "post options" at the bottom of the edit page, and change the date in there, it'll come up when you publish as your latest post.. hope you don't mind ! Gotta fly, kids are loose in the kitchen now -

Shrink wrapped scream said...

You've made the listings, girl (knew you would) Many congrats, and well done!! xx Click on David's site and scroll down to his Blog of the week awards (he's listed as one of my bloglinks, if you need to find him. Look forward to reading those posts of yors now..

Rachelle Black said...

Cool beans!! Thanks so much Carol!
Woo-hoo *doing the happy dance*

Anonymous said...

Hiya sis.Did you get my email? I'll be visiting at the end of the month WITH Giselle if all goes well:D

Rachelle Black said...

what email? And you can't remain anonymous anymore little brother *wink-wink*
Looking forward to seeing you both!
Bring me those Sesame Street DVD's and I'll pay you when you get here :))
Your sis

Jamey said...

LOL I hit the wrong button when posting that last comment.Now you see me! Anyways,I sent you an email telling you the dates of when I was coming down(and this time Giselle WILL be with me). But here they are again:
May 27th to May 29th. I will be at your place May 28th(Memorial Day). Please note this IS subject to change if me or Giselle have to work.I will let you know.I never know Giselle's schedule till the last minute cause she works ON CALL only. But I promised your kids that I would bring her. So I can't go until she goes LOL. I will remember the videos as well. Love you
PS. Dad and Karen might be joining me.I hope that is not a problem :|

somebody said...