As my regular blog readers know, this place is where I write as an advocate for male-female friendships. This post is going to be on something different. It's going to be about something deeply personal. Something I've never addressed in this blog.
I'm going to introduce you to my brother, Scott. He is 51 years old.
It's been quite challenging to stay in close relationship with Scott. You see, he's been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He takes medication to keep his moods sort of somewhat stable.
On top of this, Scott struggles with some sort of intellectual disability. From my own subjective assessment, he has the intellectual capacity between the range of a ten to twelve year old. Perhaps that is a bit low of a guess, but his intelllectual capacity is limited.
He's one of those with disabilities who is not going to see his condition improve. He's not going to develop more and live a life of independence. Although through his eyes, Scott's been living by himself and therefore "independent" for years now.
It's been challenging to stay near Scott in terms of interpersonal relationships. In light of his struggles , Scott's capacity for healthy intimacy is just not present. I don't know how much he would be able to perceive it, but he has limited social skills. Anyone who ends up in flesh-and-blood, near relationship with Scott will soon find themselves in a relationship of investing, giving, and pouring themselves into the relationship and the reciprocity would be asymmetrical.
There was a stage in our relationship a few years back where Scott would become off-the-charts angry with me. He threatened on several occasions to come over to my house in the middle of the night and burn down my house and then piss on my grave. I took those threats as real.
He has softened a bit in recent years. After our parents died I think its become very clear to him that I am some part of his social identity. Even with the threats and the challenges, I've sought to maintain a "with-ness" with him through the years. I don't love Scott in order to experience the fullness of reciprocity and mutuality in friendship.
When Scott is on his meds, he's got such a tender heart. We've had moments of beauty and tenderness in recent years. Scott has such a wonderful childlike tenderness and he's beautiful to be around when he shows it. But I would not be honest if I did not reveal my challenge to stay with him because I don't know when the next outburst is going to be and if he will kill me.
Scott gets a monthly disability check from the government. For many years Scott could not hold a job. Then he found this incredible job. It's a part-time job in which he is a bus-driver for a small school which specializes in preschool aged children--children with learning disabilities and autism.
It has ended up being a beautiful job for him. He cares for these children he picks up every day. He is able to have some kind of relationship with them that draws out his tenderness. He loves his job. He feels he is doing something special and worthwhile. It's given him some dignity.
I remember the time a couple of years ago when he got into an accident (no children aboard) and he just wept and wept with me because he feared he might lose his job. But he's now had his job for over ten years. It's the longest he's ever held a job.
But the state has had to make some cutbacks and the school had to, also. So this summer for the first time in ten years, he's not going to be driving these children. This has brought such a complex challenge for Scott. He has learned to live a simple life but a simple life that includes a disability check and this part-time income.
He's developed a great anxiety in recent months anticipating this. He's applied to various kinds of low-level paying, part-time jobs--jobs I don't think he would keep for more than a couple of weeks. Because of his intellectual disabilities, he needs someone to help fill out job applications on the internet. You would be amazed how many low-level paying jobs now require online applications. Just how are people applying for minimum wage jobs suppose to have you know, a smart phone, or laptop, or cpu to do that???? Scott's frustrated and torn--he loves his job but he doesn't see anyway he's going to be able to survive the summer.
Because Scott doesn't have capacity to think through consequences and because he exists on limited income, Sheila and I have been an ongoing kind of financial safety net for him (albeit only in a limited sense). Just this last week we generously bailed him out of a jam he got himself into with one of those short-term loans with explosive daily interest rates.
He comes to us when his truck needs an immediate repair and he can't afford it, and so on. As much as possible Sheila and I have tried to be "with" him in his journey. Sometimes we haven't been able to help him. It just hurts when we can't.
Scott lives a simple life. He lives alone. He watches television. He loves sports. He has loved driving these children around. It's made him feel special and that he has a job in this world he can do and enjoy.
If you have a moment today, pray for Scott.