| My Little Brother
My mother was always telling me to not tease my little brother because he was not like others. Only nine years old at the time, I didn't understand so it was normal for a young boy to tease his strange brother with his constant babbling and crying. Eddie was barely six at the time yet he seemed quite interested in just scratching pencils on sheets of paper. He would sit in the middle of the room with his many pencils and crayons and just scribble, scribble and scribble. This annoyed me at the time as I was interested in mechanical toys, which, in my orderly mind, puzzled me. Being nine, I was very active, interested in sports and outdoor activities. I had a hard time understanding why anyone would want to draw all day in strange abstract figures? Actually, he was quite a good-looking boy, except that he never smiled. This wasn't normal for a child.
One day I asked my mother why was Eddie so strange. She told me the doctors said it was a extremely rare condition in which the brain was complete but some of his 'wires' were mixed up. At least that was how she told me. Of good Russian stock my mother was a great housekeeper and a wonderful cook. She just couldn't understand anything out of the ordinary, especially a boy with a troubled mind. My father, a university professor, who taught mathematics was even less understanding. A Russian immigrant, he was highly intelligent with a conservative outlook in life, resulting in his complete misunderstanding of anyone who could be so strange as his own son. Also, he and I had a different outlook on things, so he wanted his second son to follow him. It was such a great disappointment to him that Eddie had this problem.
As time passed I was able to accept Eddie's strange behavior even though it irritated me at times. I tried taking him out to play with the neighbor kids but they would often tease him. Because I loved my brother I got into many fights trying to protect him. Eddie was the happiest when just sitting on the floor writing on sheets of paper while babbling and sometimes crying. But the crying really bothered me. I tried to help him but he just kept on sobbing. I would look at his drawings and try to encourage him but he wouldn't even listen. He just made random drawings all day. Everything else about him was quite normal. He ate good, he was healthy, he just didn't want to socialize with anyone.
One day as I came home from school, I saw my father with Eddie, trying to give him some attention. Eddie was ignoring him for some reason and dad kept holding him. Finally, Eddie abruptly pulled away to continue his drawing. My father, sorely disappointed, left the room. It seemed Eddie liked me the most: maybe it was because we were both kids. Even my mother got little response from Eddie, but it didn't seem to affect her much.
Over time, this bothered my father until he took up drinking. This went on for years until one day, he took his life. My mother told me it was an accident, but later, as a teenager, my cousin told me my father committed suicide. I was never close to my father so it didn't seem to bother me at the time.
I grew to love Eddie even with his strange behavior. He was actually a good kid. It just was he didn't like anyone except me. At times I would hold him as he cried, trying to comfort him. I even gave him boxes of crayons and notebooks with writing paper. My mother encouraged me to take good care of him. She was always tired and after my father died, she became an old woman overnight. She meant good; it just that she couldn't understand anything outside of being a good housekeeper. I loved my mother, but she was poorly educated and women in her days were not allowed to express themselves much.
One day, watching Eddie on the floor, I noticed he would stop and listen to the music I was playing on the radio. I tried different types of music but he finally went back to his writing. I couldn't understand any of his drawings, if you could call them that. They were completely abstract; just scratches to me. I was interested in science so anything that wasn't orderly was a mystery to me. He seemed to like my attention but then he would pull away and go back to his strange drawings. Sometimes I held him, looking into his eyes. For a brief moment I thought I saw a flicker of higher intelligence, something stirring in his mind.
As years passed, I was in high school, getting ready for college, studying every night while listening to Eddie babble and whimper. One evening, about to study for a test, I put on some classic music. I found it easier to study while listening to Mozart or at times, Brahms. My father had a nice collection of classics and a good stereo system. Dusting off a long play record, I played Brahm's second symphony. Intent on studying, I suddenly realized Eddie was very quiet. He was still scribbling but something was different. He was quiet. His usual noises had stopped and he seemed to be listening to the music. I went over to see what he was doing and something was different. Instead of random drawings and incoherent figures, they were graceful curves and loops. They still didn't make sense to me but somehow the drawings were beautiful, even though still abstract.
Something about the classic music seemed to change him. The next night I gave him more paper and a large box of crayons and put them next to him while I played another Brahms. The same thing happened; he drew more figures which became even more beautiful. He colored in the abstract drawings until they seemed to make some kind of sense. Though I didn't understand why, I somehow realized Eddie had some talent for art.. The soothing music was bringing something out of him. He was less moody and he actually let me help him. Once I showed my mother but she brushed the drawings aside saying, "Don't bother me with his silly nonsense."
This went on for months until I gave Eddie a box of artist's oil paints. It was messy at first but Eddie loved the vivid colors and soon he was painting in the spaces with colors. The change in his behavior was almost miraculous. He no longer babbled or cried. At first I thought it was something to keep him quiet but soon I realized his drawings were more that just abstract, senseless drawings. His drawings had more shape and meaning to them. Now fourteen Eddie was maturing with his skills using crayons and heavy black pencils. Even though I knew little about art, I could see some beauty in the drawings.
I showed Eddie's work to my art teacher in school one day She asked me who did the drawings saying, "This is quite beautiful, who did this?"
"My little brother did." I said.
Obviously impressed she said, "Let me show this to my friend. He is an art dealer. He knows talent."
A week later, the art teacher brought over her friend to see my brother's paintings. Eddie was out of the house, getting a medical check-up, so we could go into his room. Eddie would not let anyone except for me, to be in his room. Seeing the floor covered with the drawings, the art dealer said nothing at first. I fully expected him to say, "I can't be bothered with this." But he finally said, "You say this is the work of a fourteen year old boy?"
I told him "yes" and he said, "This is very interesting. You should let me show these in a gallery. They are quite beautiful."
The only problem was; how could I convince Eddie in showing them? He was still asocial, too shy to be in public and wary of anyone, outside me, of looking at his work. It seemed impossible to convince him to be in a gallery. The more I tried the more he pushed me away. I told him, "These are beautiful Eddie. You should let people see them."
A week later, the art dealer came over, saying, "Will he let us show his work?"
We tried to convince Eddie, but to no avail. He just shook his head no, as he drew away. The dealer then said gently, "Tell you what Eddie, I'll get you the biggest set of paint you ever saw. Would you like that?"
Looking up, a sparkle in his eyes, Eddie murmured, "Okay"
That was all it took; a little bribe.
That weekend, we gathered his paintings and took Eddie to the gallery. It was a chore to get him dressed in half decent manner but he seemed to enjoy the attention for a change. At first, the crowds of people gathering at all the other exhibits. They didn't seem to notice our stall of paintings. I felt nervous we would not get any attention. Eddie didn't even look up. He just played with his new set of paints. Gradually, a few people came over and though not saying anything, they stood and admired all the abstract figures and amazing colors. A woman came over, asking, "Is this your work?"
"No" I answered, "My little brother did these." Impressed, she brought over her friends. With a crowd now looking at his work, Eddie glancing up, surprised to see so many people, his eyes lit up. I felt so proud of him I hugged him, saying, "See. I told you your paintings were good."
Looking up at me, I saw the very first smile on Eddie's face. A few people came over to praise Eddie, but not in a condescending way. Eddie would not answer but he just shyly looked up and smiled. Maybe he liked the attention after all.
At the end of the exhibition, we collected his paintings and as we left, Eddie whispered to me. "Can we do this again sometime?"
After all these years Eddie was coming out of his shell. We just didn't realize he just needed more attention and praise for his drawings Now that we realized he had a hidden talent, it was not only important to bring this out of him, but Eddie could lead a more productive life and maybe he could become a part of society.
to be continued.......