Isn’t it funny that Christmas comes during the darkest days of the year, the time of the year that we so desperately seek out light. That was all that I wanted those darkest years, to be able to see a ray of light, a glimmer of hope. But all glimmer of light was gone. I had lost my hope. I fell into a time of deep despair. I was angry with God.
Those are the years that I don’t talk about to even the closest of new friends. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. The darkest years happened when I was in middle school. My autistic brother Matt became increasingly violent. So much so that he was not allowed to go to school with other kids. He had to have a teacher come out to our house. When Matt got “kicked out” of school, my mom took my brothers and I out of school too. My parents had us 4 children in less than 5 years, with me being the oldest. I was homeschooled between 8th and 10th grade. While my classmates attended prom and homecoming, I was at home in isolation.
Through the darkest years, my dad totally checked out emotionally and became very depressed. My mom became desperate to find a cure for autism, taking Matt out of state to a hospital that did extreme allergy testing. She thought that if he avoided certain foods and allergens, it would curb some of his violent outbursts. When they came back everything changed for us.
Matt was allergic to everything. My parents got rid of their wood furnace and put purifiers throughout the house. My mom took down her bedroom curtains because they had formaldehyde in them. She used old sheets and blankets as curtains. If the local farmers were spraying their fields with pesticides, she would call them screaming if she didn’t get notified first and Matt would have to wear his charcoal mask. If they did call her to notify us, we had to pack up our car within a half an hour and head up north for a couple of days until things gassed out or it rained. My parents had to park their cars at the bottom of the driveway so exhaust fumes would not come in the house. If my dad snow blowed the driveway, he was not allowed into the house with his snow gear on and had to shower immediately. I wasn’t allowed to wear perfume, hairspray, or nail polish. Those were just a few of the changes that were made in attempts to control Matt’s violent behavior.
It was very hard that year at Christmas. My mom said that Matt was allergic to Christmas trees, even the fake ones. It was at that time that we no longer had a Christmas tree in the house. No decorations. No lights. Nothing. Even my grandma was instructed not to put up a Christmas tree. Instead she put little bows on the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. It was horrible. Matt had meltdown, after meltdown, after meltdown. Day after day he attacked me. He kicked me, punched me, scratched me, hit me. Ironically, taking away all of the things away from Matt (and the rest of us) did nothing to tame his aggression. It seemed to hurt us more than it helped us.
But how could I be angry at my mom for trying everything she could think of trying? How could I be mad at my brother who wasn’t bright enough to read or write? I fell deeper and deeper into despair like a small flower buried under the cold deep snow.