#261: PART 3: WARD AND I MOVE AWAY
Read the first two parts of this series, if you so desire:
The summer of 1988 marked a huge change for our house. On August 18, Ward moved into a large care facility. He was eighteen years old and was becoming more and more difficult for us to take care of. I was fifteen and moving out for my grade eleven year to a Mennonite boarding school. I have no idea how my parents felt about all this, but I am sure that having two of their three children moving out of the house within less than two weeks of each other must have been emotionally stressful.
I was terribly wrapped up in my own personal drama at the time. I was a late bloomer physically, so at fifteen my breasts had just become noticeable, I was finally growing taller, and I was fully involved in the highs and lows of pubescent emotional drama. Nothing short of the rapture was going to keep me from obsessing about the unfairness of being sent off to a small school in a small town away from my circle of friends in Cosmopolis. To be honest, I barely thought about Ward's move before it happened.
I suppose that this was because his move had been planned on for a long time. There was a long waiting list at the large care facility, so my parents had put his name on it years before to ensure that Ward had a good place to live once he grew up and became too difficult to care for. When his name came up for a spot in the facility, it seemed more like a natural progression to me than a surprise.
To be honest, I didn't really notice the lack of his presence for the next two years. I moved out to the boarding school less than two weeks after him, and my whole world shifted. Aside from summer vacation and holidays, I didn't live at home throughout grade eleven and grade twelve. When I came home for the occasional weekend, we would go visit him, and then I would bus back to my dorm an hour away. It was sort of like we had both done the same thing.
It wasn't until I moved home following graduation that I noticed anything. I was sitting on the couch watching television, and my body was full of tension. I couldn't figure out why I was always so tense. It was a little like constantly being on the edge of my seat. Then it occurred to me: the house was quiet. During the whole first fifteen years of my life, quiet meant that Ward was in danger, and my parents and I were constantly listening for him. Without him at home, the house was quiet, but I was still listening habitually to the dead air, sure somewhere deep in my mind that something awful was happening.
Ward was only quiet when he was practicing stealth or endangering himself physically. To illustrate what I mean by saying quiet in the house equalled danger, here are some of the things that happened: Ward ate a plastic fork (we picked through his shit for two weeks until we were sure that we had all the parts), he drank half a large bottle of dish detergent, he burned himself with hot water from the tap, and he bled out a three- by four-foot pool of blood when he banged his nose. Until I moved back home, quiet had always meant that we should run, worry, call out, call poison control, check for breathing.
Living without Ward was easy by comparison. No seizures, no stuff being broken all the time, no pinning him down with my knees for his occasional tooth brushing (I bled from some of the scratches he gave me during those struggles), no constant worry, no making sure that someone's attention was focussed on him every second. The biggest adjustment I had to make was learning how to relax.
Now, years later, we are both adults who have settled into the major routines of our lives, and while some things between us has changed, much has stayed the same. Now that I no longer take care of him, our relationship dynamic has returned to its natural state. I visit him occasionally with my parents, and Ward acts completely indifferently toward me. He doesn't like me to touch him, unless I am behind him and he doesn't have to watch me while I do it. My father always sings to him when we visit, and Ward will literally grab my father's face to keep him from looking at me during the song.
The visits are short, and aside from the occasional look of acknowledgement from Ward, he and I don't interact very much. He and I never had a close emotional relationship, though. I have strong feelings for him, but between us there is very little. Friends have suggested that if I visited more, invested more in our relationship, Ward and I could become closer, but they don't know Ward. I lived with him for fifteen years and spent a good amount of time taking care of him, and a noticeable emotional bond never grew between us. He is the same with our younger brother, Jay. He looks at us, he knows who we are, but when put in a situation where he has to interact with us, he becomes annoyed.
I never feel particularly rejected by his behaviour. To feel rejected, you have to first expect or receive welcome, and neither ever existed. As I stated in "Part 2", we each have our roles, we are what we are, we do what we do. With Ward, feeling for him is never about equal returns.