My brother is 49, mildly retarded, and overweight.
He lives independently, with some help for transportation to doctors’ appointments and the grocery store. He is a pretzel twister – has been for 28 years.
I learned from his boss that my bro had taken off work because he was “depressed.” This was something new, but not surprising, considering the cruel paradox of having a mind that doesn’t work right and yet it works well enough to know it doesn’t work right.
My brother and I were sitting on his front porch eating the breakfast I’d brought. Along with the homemade oatmeal bars, I’d also prepared a mental list of “Surefire Tips and Hints to Beat Depression.” Lord knows, I’d tried just about everything to combat depression, and know what worked and what didn’t.
But my brother threw me curve ball when he said, “I had a dream that I’m eating something I’m not supposed to and I’m trying to hide it from you and Dad. And a voice says, ‘These people care about you.’”
I binned the mental “surefire” list. “Whose voice was it?”
“It was a woman’s voice. I think it was an angel,” he said. Angels – something we’ve never talked about. I mean my entire family has never broached this angel stuff with each other.
Usually, my brother doesn’t establish eye contact, doesn’t talk much, and doesn’t show interest in a topic for long. None of that is the case for our angel conversation.
He went on. “Ten years ago, I was in bed. Sort of sleeping, sort of awake and a hand touched my cheek.” He brushed his cheek with his hand.
“Were you scared?” I asked.
“How did you feel?”
“Nurtured.” I didn’t know this word was in his vocab. It’s perfect.
“Who was it? Who did the voice come from?”
“I think it was Mom or an angel.” Our mother died in ’04. Then he asked me, “How can I call on my angel? I heard you can do that.”
I have no idea, so I said, “You say, ‘Thank you, angel. Thank you, angel. Thank you, thank you. Please be with me.’”
We finished our bananas and gathered our trash. This talk was one of the most intimate, cohesive conversations we’d ever had. We were on the same wavelength. We were peers exploring sacred territory. I could tell he felt safe with me,
not withholding and censoring as he sometimes does to avoid criticism.
“If you start to feel depression coming on, and you call your angel, what will she say to you?”
“Everything will be alright.”
I nodded. I felt relief, as though a big burden had been taken off me. Everything will be alright.