And inside the ring is written: my wonderful brother

Conversations Between Sisters...of Different Families

I just finished your mom’s book.  I loved it.

I greatly admire the way your mother has lived her life.  She is remarkable, and even more so when you compare her life to other women from her generation.

As I read her story, I kept thinking in wonderment of the tale of our two mothers.  I couldn’t help but compare your mother’s spunk and positive attitude to my mother’s victimhood. They are both similar in their backgrounds — my mom was born in 1930, married at age 20, only a high school education, 5 kids, a husband with his own set of problems, one child born in 1958 diagnosed with educable mental retardation. When your mom got lemons, she not only made lemonade, but she used the lemonade to make life sweeter for herself, her family & friends, her students, and untold numbers of parents with disabled children. When my mom got lemons, she spent 50 years using the lemons as an excuse for her sourness and bitterness.

Your mother’s life story reminds me of the Robert Frost poem about taking the road less traveled. But the poem’s wording needs to change to fit her life. She reached the point where the road seemed not to diverge, but to come to an end. So she made a new road.
You also wanted to know if the book moved me to tears just because I knew the characters, or if it was because of the story itself. My answer is that it must be the story itself. I really don’t know your mom or Billy very well, and I don’t know your extended family at all. The most moving parts of the book were Billy’s quotes, heartfelt letters written by other family members, stories about people in Billy’s life who have shown so much kindness with the library birthday parties, and of course Billy’s many triumphs.

Although Billy’s disabilities are more profound than my brother’s, Billy’s adulthood has been much more meaningful than my brother’s because of the tireless advocacy of Billy’s mother and extended family. Grown Man Now has made me realize that I can be a better sister to my learning-disabled brother, and that it’s not too late to help him find more meaning in his life. The book has inspired and motivated me to focus on the things he can do, instead of what he can’t do.

Your Friend

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Wow, this is an amazing response. I am deeply appreciative that you wrote this down, and it helps me understand you so much more.

It has been a trek to edit this book with mom, trying to walk the line between our need for privacy and yet telling enough to show the depth and environment of the story. By your response, I am thinking it was worth the risk of exposure to open a dialog between us and other siblings in situations like ours.

I always knew that you had an empathetic response to my “circle,” and believe me, I am empathetic to yours…Your letter speaks so strongly and eloquently to mothers and siblings and I appreciate it that you will let me put your concise spiritual message and wonderful, immediate response to the book on our website.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this…it means a great deal to me.
Yesterday, another friend of the family, who is now 67, told me mom has inspired her to get back in the game and do some volunteer work. She said she thought that now she is retired, she was “done,” but that seeing what mom is doing in her 80s, she has decided she has so much time to do more!

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Your message calls for one more comment.  I almost included in my message my admiration for your mother’s courage for having exposed all the unpleasant aspects of her husband and mother, and the problems of the entire extended family. Although she exposes herself and her family by doing so, she does make herself more credible, more human, and more admirable. I came to love your family through this book because she included the good with the bad. Her life was no fairy tale, and her sharing the unpleasant stuff proves it.  
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Thank you for letting me put your letters on our website. Part of what I want to do is allow people to voice the hard parts in a thoughtful and respectful way, to see if we can inspire, comfort, and charge each other as the supporting cast. Writing with you is helping me clarify how to do it.

Thank you so, so much!