I grew up in San Francisco among the hippies and the homeless, where the fog kept us cool in the summer and gave us something to complain about in the winter, where the Giants and 49ers became somewhat of an obsession, and where the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz were just touristy places to avoid on a Sunday. My parents bought the house I grew up in circa 1968 in an average neighborhood, and still live there to this day. My high school was as close to being “inner city” as a suburban school can be, and came fresh with gang warfare, race riots, and religious protests. And yes, I grew up in a city that partied hard following the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victories two of the last three years! I contributed my celebratory efforts from Texas 🙂
Not to be excluded from my childhood environment is my brother Nick, who is my junior by almost 4 years. At an early age, my parents detected that Nick was different, or dare I say, delayed. He crawled late, talked late, and according to my mom, didn’t walk until close to his fourth birthday. Nick repeated Kindergarten, went through OT, psychoanalysis, Speech, and was in the “Special Class” all the way through high school graduation. I recall many battles between my brother and parents the night before a new school year started where he had to face a new teacher, a new classroom, a new environment, a new set of rules – and simply decided he’d rather stay home. He epitomized the “homework war” and was constantly the kid who found it easier to give up, than giving it another try. Frustration definitely ruled his childhood. My mom told me one time that there is a big difference between the kids who are slow and don’t know it; and those that are slow and are painfully aware of it. My brother was definitely the latter.
My passion for helping people, and advocating for those that have no voice, certainly seems to have stemmed from the exposures I had as a child. Vision Therapy has provided an avenue for exploring this passion, and has helped me realize that I enrich my life the most by helping other people. This has held true not only in my relationship with my brother, but with the patients who have trusted me through the years. Often times parents will ask me how I got into this line of work, and will jokingly respond that it “started when I was 4”. What I am really trying to tell them is VT really found me, thanks to my brother.
Nick is now 33, and holds a job as a bus boy in a local restaurant. A job he does well, and is very proud of. He rides the train to work and back, and for someone who has never driven a car in his life, is pretty independent. He will never go to college, is socially awkward, and couldn’t tell you how many quarters are in a dollar; yet he doesn’t seek your pity or mine. In fact, he is probably one of the happiest people I know.
My boss at my very first job, who also had a sibling with developmental delays, would have a standard response when someone would feel sorry for those such as Nick – he would always say “the world needs ditch diggers too”.