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Light brown autumn leaves blew swiftly across the cracked sidewalk that outlines my oldest brother Lance's house. I stood silently there and stared at him walking down the street, his two year old son Luke trotting at his side. The sun was orange and shined low in the egg white sky, casting their shadows - one tall and one tiny - before my eyes. One of those surreal lapses of time and existence had formed where I was gazing upon the world as though it were a series of snapshots shown in a slideshow and explained by the photographer who had taken them.
Lance - being fourteen years older than me - had helped me grow. He had been a father figure all my life and engraved in me so much that I know. Just the fact that he was now going to take his own son on a similar journey was enough to make me gulp from a sudden rush of sentimentality.
The snapshots then melted back to reality and the world moved fluidly as time reclaimed its role. I wanted to call to Lance, to talk to him. And so I ran. The only way he'd understand me would be to tap him on the shoulder and speak with my lips exposed to his eyes. It was an act that had become natural to me by now, and it didn't bother me at all. Having a hearing impaired brother meant adapting to a special kind of relationship, and my mother had always said I did it wonderfully. Lance turned his head at the tap of my index finger, his feet stopped moving, and Luke peered up slightly perturbed at the sudden change in pace. I spoke slowly with a slight whisper, allowing him to read my mouth as though it were a book. We did not use sign; we never have. My mother and father had raised Lance and David (my other hearing impaired brother) to be people who would not rely on a language that would alienate them from the hearing world. Feeling this would hinder their lives, they made it a priority that Lance and David learn to speak English and function in 'our' world.
This wasn't easy. Functioning as a deaf person amidst the hearing world took an astronomical amount of resilience and perseverance on my brothers' part. Being their younger brother, and gifted with the ability to hear, it was always a duty for me to help them as much as I possibly could. This created many awkward - but ultimately important - situations in which I would be called to act as a translator to people who couldn't understand my brother's unique voices. I learned quickly that if we were ordering food, chatting with a relative, friend, teacher, or other person not in the immediate family, and they did not understand something being said by my brother that I had to interject myself into the conversation or things would turn painful. Nothing hurt more than the times I had seen someone lose their temper and begin screaming loudly at my brothers as though they were idiotic fools. Such impatient misunderstanding made me burn inside. I imagined what my brother must have felt like at the time, and wanted nothing more than to scream, "Shut up! You don't understand, it's not his fault!" But I was a little kid, and so I only watched.
Growing up as an asset to my brothers and also observing them live their lives as independently functioning members of society taught me a lot about respect, tolerance, and life as a whole. I later realized that although my brothers were at a disadvantage, they never gave up, and always kept an open mind to hearing people - even when people would not show them the same courtesy. I've tried funneling my brothers' acute wisdom and adaptability to apply to my own life. They served as prime role models for what the human spirit can achieve despite hardship. If I encounter anyone with a disability, I remember immediately that they are really no different than any other human being, and should be extended nothing but open arms.
With the realizations I have formed from having two such amazing siblings, I have made it a priority to always keep in mind how lucky I am, and to always endure the tough turns in life - like they have. Now its time to take my next step in self-discovery, and I will make sure to take all I've learned and apply it wisely to life at the UC.
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