Earlier this week I did something I had never done before; I took a trip with just my brother and I. While that may not sound like something out of the ordinary, my brother is autistic. This trip had been planned for months, but I was not prepared for the journey it would take me. My brother has always been a large part of my life; because he cannot live independently, he will one day live with me, which pushes me to always make decisions that will benefit him when the time comes. I understand that every situation is different when it comes to autism, but this is my experience.
The road trip began, and he quietly listened to his music for the majority of the ride. As we neared our destination we began to get bored, so I started cracking jokes. He laughed and cracked jokes back; it was a great time. We shared a hotel room, he passed out around 10 at night, but I was wide awake. For hours I tossed and turned unable to sleep. I finally gave in, exhausted, and cried. I was overwhelmed; it had been a tough week, and it was not going to get easier. This was the first time my brother had been 100% my responsibility; I wanted everything to be perfect for him. I was afraid he would become overwhelmed in the crowds, or he would (unknowingly to him) say something not socially accepted. I texted my boyfriend, crying, I felt like I was in way over my head. My boyfriend reassured me I was stronger than I think I am, and texted me until I finally fell asleep.
The next morning, while my brother and I were eating breakfast, I received news that our Uncle had passed away the night before. My brother asked how our Uncle was doing, and I told him that our uncle was finally good, which he was; he was no longer suffering. Even though my heart was breaking for my family, I lied to my brother so he could have just a few more hours of happiness.
The majority of the trip went without incident. We went to an Air Force Museum, while there my brother was able to talk to Airmen, which he was very excited to do. We only had one little “blip,” which in my book is a success. While walking, my brother said hello to a stranger; she gave him a disgusted look and quickly ran off.
Though this trip was not the easiest trip, it was the most rewarding; I was able to combine my passion with my brother’s passion. He loves military history and I love traveling. I learned more from this week with my brother than I have in a lifetime with him; I also received a glimpse into the life my parents experience every day. Traveling with someone with autism can bring on its own challenges, but the smile I see on my brother’s face is worth it.