Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Gentlest Giant

I have three brothers. David is the oldest and lives in Ohio. My youngest is in Mississippi. His name is Andrew and we, through the years, have been closer than the others. Then, there is my brother Douglas. Douglas is learning disabled. If you sift through what he says, you’ll find a keen mind that sucks in information like a Hoover Shop Vac. It’s getting it to come out again that gets him into trouble. He’s also emotionally about thirteen which makes any sort of relationship with him like walking a tight rope. If you lean too far one way, you’ve given him too much slack and he runs off with his new found freedom, laughing and waving it right into the street. The other way finds him shut down and sulking upstairs.
I don’t envy anyone who cares for the disabled. It’s a job I couldn’t do so those people have my complete admiration. My parents are in that category. I guess if Douglas were more disabled it would be easier in some ways. They could say he has autism or whatever and people would understand. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that Douglas’s brain works differently.
The funny thing is, though, that I think a lot of this house would fall apart if it weren’t for Douglas. He moans and groans about doing a job the way any thirteen year old but if you need the gutters cleaned out, a sump pump put into place, painting done, or any of the other little maintenance things taken care of, Douglas is the one that does it. Mom’s not climbing a ladder any time soon and Dad is way too tired for most of it. Enter Douglas. He’s also the go-to guy for dishes and cleaning the floors. Hell, even this morning I was reading the paper and he set down a cup of perfectly brewed coffee by my hand.
Douglas is also the house’s town crier. If it rained last night, you’ll know about it. Did one of the cats get after the dog? Ask Douglas. If I’m in the room next to our bedroom and Elijah wakes up, Douglas will come from across the house to let me know.
I think part of it is because he’s able to. I also think he just wants you to love him. Everyone needs to feel needed and a part of something bigger. It’s hard to do that out here in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three mile trek on narrow roads with crazy ass drivers and no sidewalks to the nearest bus stop. His biggest trip out of the house is to the grocery store and when we had to push back a trip to the mall a day, the look on his face was as if Mom had just told him a basket of kittens had just drown.
That brings me to the other thing about Douglas. He is devoted to cats. He knows every outdoor cat in the area and reports to us on the comings and goings of them, too. Last week a cat got stuck in a tree on our property and he pulled out a rickety ladder to rescue the poor thing. Even with me steadying the ladder, I was sure he was about to fall to the ground and dislocate something. But no, he rescued the cat and was repaid with claw marks across his forearm. He knows the next door neighbors cats by name, meow, age, and temperament and was proud to introduce me. He found out where the strays live a couple miles down the road and watches for them should we ever drive by. And my cat Socks has not once had less than an over flowing bowl of food since we’ve been here.
Douglas is a true gentle giant. He easily fills up a doorframe but I wouldn’t trust anyone more with Socks and it’s amazing how wonderful he is with Elijah.  Sometimes we have a precarious dance being siblings but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Oh, he just dropped off a plate of bacon wrapped scallops. It must be time for lunch.  Gotta go!

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