He Was Lost, But Now…

My brother was missing this weekend. For at least 24 hours, no one knew where to find him, where he was, how he was doing, or if he was even safe. Sounds ridiculous to worry about a nearly-32-year-old who hasn’t called his mother in a day… but my brother is not “normal”.

You can tell within minutes of meeting him that there is something not quite right about him – and though I can’t tell you the names of his “conditions” – because I don’t know them – there is a laundry list of things that are wrong, things with his brain, his adrenal system, the way his body produces or doesn’t produce certain hormones, and so on. The best way I can think to describe it is that IQ-wise, he’s similar to Forest Gump (and that’s not an exaggeration – my brother’s IQ is, I believe, 5 points lower than the fictional Gump) — the key difference is that Forest was more functional on his own, and my brother doesn’t have Forest’s tendency to speak in profundities.

There are a handful of medications that he must take daily. He is living on his own in an apartment with a cat. He works in a grocery store making just above minimum wage and has been at the same store for years.

And Friday he disappeared.

Saturday, Hubby went to my brother’s apartment, played the messages on his machine and heard several threats to my brother’s life from someone who was likely drunk or stoned (possibly both). The threats were pretty graphic, I’m told – but I asked not to hear them. My brother’s apartment was a state of filth – pizza boxes (both empty and containing remnants of pizzas from days/weeks past), granola bar wrappers, crumbs ground into the carpet, just.. filth. Bills from a year ago were found, unopened (and now, obviously, unpaid and past due). His medication was found – he had not taken it in several days.Word of an evicition notice received was mentioned by his neighbors.

And we never knew.

I called hospitals. He wasn’t there. Hubby and my mom’s husband knocked on the doors of the neighbors to try to find out if anyone had a clue where he might be. They came up empty and called the police. They filed a report – the police said, since he was living on his own, he was obviously (?) able to function and they would put a missing persons report out but really there isn’t much they can do for a 32 year old who doesn’t call his mommy.

Can’t say I blame them.

The sick feeling you get when you know someone is making threats to the life of someone you know. The sick feeling of when you know he hasn’t taken his medication and that it’s likely going to land him in the hospital – but not knowing where he is or who he was with and would they know what to do if something happened, would they care enough to do it, would they do it in time?

Growing up with a special needs sibling wasn’t easy, and to be honest, this past episode could be one of the first times I have truly felt sick about what was going on with my brother – where would they find him – would he be alive? When you have a sibling who so requires attention for so much – reminders to bathe and brush his teeth, constant nagging to get his homework done in school, having to be told how and why to do things, it’s hard, when you’re a kid to not have some level of resentment, and I would be lying if I said that didn’t impact why my brother and I have such a weak relationship. I became a fiercely independent person, used to fending for myself, and picking up pieces – in large part because my parents were constantly picking up my brother’s pieces.

But this past weekend, I heard about these threats, and I felt sick sick sick. Not knowing where he was – and if the person issuing threats would follow through or was just trying to scare him (which it did because he did disappear to escape it). All I could think of was, “What kind of sister am I?”

My mom got a call from a neighbor who heard he was in the hospital on Saturday night. He’s in the hospital not because of something anyone did – but because he threw the hormones and the balance of his own body out of whack by not taking his medication again. It’s like we’re relieved he’s okay and mad that he’s done this to himself again – but knowing, that he can’t really help it – he doesn’t know better.

And the fact that he doesn’t know better – that he needs to be told when to shower and brush his teeth, that he needs to be told that he needs to take his pills or he could die, or that he needs to go to his doctor’s appointments because they are there to help – well, it’s time for him to get more help. My mom spent a lot of time with social workers yesterday and they are helping her now to get him the help he needs. The coming weeks are going to be filled with getting his health restored (he’s in an ICU right now, severely dehydrated), having him declared “incompetent”, my mom having to obtain guardianship of him, and finding him an assisted living facility.

As a parent, you think at some point your kids will leave the nest – that you give them the wings and they will leave the nest, fly away and do their best with what they have been taught – and sometimes they can’t leave the nest entirely – and so that is something that as a family we struggle with. We’re glad he’s been found, but now we’re treading a new path and finding our way, and trying to move forward — and it’s totally foreign to us. I know my mom feels guilt at her frustration, as I do about my not being a better sister.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
– John Lennon

About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. Anonymous says

    Awwww, sweetie, please don’t beat yourself up. You’re only human, Sarah. It’s only natural you’d feel some level of resentment in that situation. If you weren’t a good sister you wouldn’t have even noticed he was missing. ((((Sarah))))

    I’m so relieved you guys found him ! I hope he’s going to be okay. Please update this post, so we’ll know when he’s doing better.

    My sister’s kids are *special needs* and two of them will need to live in an assited environment when they’re out on their own.

    I hope your guy’s area has some great programs to help your brother live on his own, but with someone close by to kind of monitor him and make sure he’s taking his meds, etc….

    Thinking of you & your family.

  2. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for you, especially with the answering machine messages.

    I’m glad he’s ok and your mom has you to bolster her up while she’s going through all this. It must be so tough for both of you.

  3. Already she’s running into road blocks – social services told her one thing yesterday and something contradictory today. Yesterday they filled her with hope that it would be easy to have him placed in assisted living, to have guardianship changed to her, to do all of this. Today they said, “Sorry, he’s too functional.” TOO FUNCTIONAL?! She just feels depressed, run down and guilty. And frustrated.

  4. Farm Wife says

    Sarah, I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I hope the “road blocks” come crashing down and you can get the help he needs. Until then you all are in my prayers!

  5. UPDATE: He’s back in the hospital after being released Tuesday afternoon – went back in last night and now has pneumonia and the flu!

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