Lets turn the clock back to when I was 6 and going into 1st grade. The summer was ending, fall was around the corner, and my older brother, Alex, and I were outside playing basketball in our driveway. Alex had lowered down the basketball hoop for me, and I ran around bouncing my little Mickey Mouse ball while he took shot after shot with his black and orange basketball.
Alex and I were about to start school that week. He was telling me all about what teacher I was going to have, and what I was going to learn. Suddenly I stopped bouncing my Mickey ball, held it in both of my hands with my head down and started to cry. Alex immediately heard the sounds of his only sister's tears and paused his playing to attend to me.
"What are you crying about Ranna?" he asked me in his almost laughing voice. He was perplexed to what he said that made me cry.
"I don't want to go to school like you. I don't want to be like you." I mustered these words through my tears.
Alex knew exactly what I meant. He knew why I was crying. Instead of being insulted, he put his hands on my shoulders and told me "You will never be like me. You don't have to worry. School will be different for you. It will be easier." Alex hugged me to calm me down, and we went back to playing basketball until it was dark.
I am fortunate to have an older brother. Alex is 8 years older than I am. Any one who has a sibling can say that there is a bond that can't really be described. You go from picking on each other, to yelling at one another, to telling your mom the other one is bugging you, to laughing and joking around all in a matter of minutes. Alex and I are extremely similar. We have nearly the same laugh, we say "Hi" in the exact same inflection, we watch and quote all the same movies, and we both have a deep love for ice cream. For all our similarities, and all of our differences, there has always been one difference that has stood out the most to me growing up.
My brother has ADHD. I know many people would say this is no big deal, because there is this common misconception that too many kids are diagnosed with ADHD. The truth is, millions of kids are recognized as having symptoms of this learning disorder and are not actual victims to the disorder. My brother is one of many with this true medical disorder. The pathways in his mind connect differently, therefore he learns differently. My mother told me at the time my brother was diagnosed with this sort of disorder was considered more of a type of injury.
Growing up it was painfully obvious to notice our difference with school. My parents were told when my brother was 4 that he would not graduate high school, basically saying that a 4-year-old was hopeless. My fathers' immediate response was "Yes, he will." My parents didn't listen to those fools, and advocated for him in every way they could. My mother homeschooled him until they found a suitable learning environment that could handle who he was. They hired private tutors from age 4 to high school. I know many people would ask why wasn't my brother put on something like Adderall or Ritalin? Well, the answer was each of those drugs posed issues. On certain medications his personality was not the same, changed his appetite, or they gave him high blood pressure. The answer was never simplistic when it came to Alex. On these types of drugs he would lose his inner light that brought out all the great and eccentric qualities. Instead they used non-stimulants like Clonidine and Tofranil. They gave him what he needed to be able to function in a classroom and keep him healthy.
Too many times I could hear my brother crying in his room at night frustrated with his math homework, or struggling to study. Growing up I found myself studying harder so that I didn't need to feel that type of stress. More and more I realized that classes just came easily to me. Homework was just another chore in my young life, and I was not being held back in classes but rather taking AP classes in high school and enjoying them. If I faltered in school, it was never to the extent he did.
Alex did graduate high school, went right on to get his Associates degree. From there he went on to be a ski instructor in Boulder, Colorado for a year, lived in New Mexico and hiked around the mountains, attended Kansas University for awhile working towards a bachelors degree. Finally, after years of trying to find what he really wanted to study and what he could really excel at, he began attending St. John Fisher College. Alex has been studying as a full time student the past couple of years, while also working full time. Although he is older, this still posed many of his usual obstacles. He still needed tutors, and often my mother and I were helping him through his classes. He has fought through it all.
It has been a long and adverse road for Alex. After years of watching his ups and downs, I am excited to say he graduated this May with a Bachelor in Sport Management from St. John Fisher College. He followed his own path, and didn't take the conventional path in education and life.
I wish I could say that I was there to watch him walk the stage. Instead, I was in Rome, and just hours before I raced, he was receiving a diploma that many shortsighted people believed would never receive. I have missed my share of birthdays, funerals, weddings, and parties because of training and racing around the world. This was by far the hardest thing to miss. The hours leading into the race I was fighting back tears. I regret not attending his big day. I should have gone to be with my brother. He has worked harder than anyone else I know, and he has more than enough life experience to carry him forward to even better things. I could not be a more proud sister!
CONGRATS ALEX! I wish I had been there. We are two dedicated and determined children, and our parents raised us right. Love you!!!