I am having a meeting with some of the staff at the facility where Ed lives this week.  In the twenty-five years since my brother has lived there I have never had such a meeting.  It isn’t that there haven’t been issues; it’s just that I avoid them.  I’ve written an e-mail or two to top administration.  I’ve places a few phone calls, but a face to face…never. 

I have a lot of excuses…like this is my brother’s life and he is capable of dealing with his own issues with those who work with him.  And it is…and for the most part he does.  But still, these are the folks in his everyday world…and I treat them like invisible Oompa Loompas.  They get paid minimum wage I am sure.  They clean and wipe and deal with my brother…and the other thirty or so souls like him…and I don’t know their names or acknowledge their role in his life.

Don’t go feeling sorry for them…they pay me back in spades.

But first…I must explore why I treat them with such disrespect.  I am usually quite respectful to those who provide service for me.  I over tip…I am friendly to phone operators…I know the folks who work at my grocery store and engage them in conversation about their lives. 

I acknowledge the equal exchange between myself and others. I acknowledge when I am exchanging money for service or service for money.  I see the exchange and feel the equality between myself and the other whether the bank teller or one of my clients…

So why do I pretend those who work with my brother don’t exist?  I think it is because over the quarter century he’s lived there I have experienced time and time again a disrespect of that exchange from most of those who work for my brother.  They seem to act like they are doing my brother a favor by taking care of the things he cannot do for himself, like they are superior to him, that he is far less bright than he is.  They don’t seem to realize he is paying their mortgage…that this is a fair exchange.  He needs them and they need him.  It is a sort of hell to watch…and a difficult thing to explain.

So I ignore them out of frustration. I ignore them out of anger.  I ignore them out of embarrassment that they must be intimately in my life because they are intimately in my brother’s life.

But this week I am taking the first step to alter that…to let go of my anger…to speak…I am afraid it will come out badly…

It is my plan to tell them this story about when my brother was just coming out of his coma.  He had been in a coma for months and months.  He was just able to speak again.  I asked him about the four days right after his crash when he was almost brain dead…almost dead.  I asked him if he had any memory of this.  His eyes got big and he said with a seriousness I had seldom heard from him…

“I went to heaven…..it was really far away…and I really liked it…I really wanted to stay…but God wouldn’t let me stay…I got mad because I really wanted to stay…but God said I had to go back so I could provide jobs for people.”

I am going to try and tell them that….and own that I have not treated them any better than I feel they treat my brother….I have unconsciously disrespected them as much as I think they have unconsciously disrespected him.   I am thinking if this is to work…for me…for my brother…for them…this will have to be the first of many such conversations.  I think I may have to bring in some donuts or brownies sometime too!