In late August of 2007, my older brother, Micah helped me move into my dorm room at Mount Holyoke College. Fortunately I was able to return the favor to him. On January 4, 2010 I helped Micah move into his dorm room at Oakland University after a two-year legal battle with Oakland University’s administration. Here is what I wrote the night I came home from this historic move-in.
I’m not sure how to feel right now. My eyes continue to swell up with tears and all I want to do is cry out loud. I wonder if this is how the older sibling feels when she finally watches her younger brother go off to college—it is certainly how I feel right now. I have this protective feeling consuming my body—I keep flashing to this image of Micah sitting scared in his room, not knowing what to do to in this unfamiliar place, just lying there hoping the next few months will go by quickly.
As I lie in my bed at home, I turn to the wall that separates my room from Micah’s room. It’s the wall I used to knock on every night before I went to sleep and yell out, “Goodnight Micah! I love you.” And he’d yell back, “Goodnight Emma! I love you.” Sometimes he’d knock first. Right now, I want to knock on the wall right now and hear his voice…to comfort me. I want to hear him say, “Goodnight Emma.”
I’m sure he’s fine. If he’s not…he knows how to ask for help. It’s probably one of his greatest strengths. I wish we all could ask for help and not be afraid. He is not caught up in thinking that he should know it all. He just asks for what he needs…then someone typically helps him…and then his community, his circle, his support becomes even larger.
I’m proud of him. Today, I loved hearing all of his friends and peers say, “Hey Micah! Welcome to the dorm.” It’s such a reassuring feeling for me, as a sibling—to see others respect Micah in the way I always imagine “typical” respect looks like.
I’m feeling all sorts of things. I’m proud and worried, happy and unsettled, emotional and confused, wondering constantly and smiling often. I picture him getting up tomorrow—excited he could sleep in until 9 a.m. instead of waking up at 6 to take a two long bus rides to get to campus. I can see him doing his morning routine more carefully because now, now he’s in a dorm room—the dorm room he spent 2 years fighting to live in. I think he’ll brush his teeth extra long tomorrow (assuming he can find his toothpaste). I know he won’t stop smiling. Maybe he’ll make his bed and then decide what to wear. He might call our mom—tell her what he did in morning and how he slept. He’ll like taking to mom and I know she’ll smile when she hears his satisfied voice.
May all siblings of a brother or sister with a disability be able to help their sibling move out of their home into a home that they choose. May they be able to feel mixed emotions of over-protectiveness and excitement. May they be able to talk to each other in a new way because now they both live away from home. May the sibling (without disabilities) who has felt embarrassed, pushed to the side, heard too many phone calls about a meeting for their sibling, ever felt alone, ever felt uncertain about the role they may play in their brother or sister’s future, ever felt frustrated at the way the rest of the world looks at their brother or sister—may they too experience something so great as I did when I helped my so-called “atypical” “retarded” “can’t do anything” “will never speak” “just put him in an institution” … yes, my creative, courageous, witty, powerful, brilliant, intelligent, loving, conscientious, funny, older brother move into a dorm, so he, too, can be once again be just my brother.
Learn about a student, speaker, and pioneer, Micah Fialka-Feldman, who continues to fight for disability-pride, justice, and inclusion in his post-secondary education program at Oakland University in Michigan.