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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Change in Event

Local author Anne Clinard Barnhill, who tonight was to read from her book, At Home in the Land of Oz: My Sister, Autism, and Me, has rescheduled her visit for MONDAY, AUGUST 13th, same time (7 pm), same place (Shakespeare and Company Books, an independent bookstore, in Kernersville).

previous post here

I grew up with a sister who was confused, in a time when doctors couldn’t tell the difference between one mental condition and another, when parents were blamed if a child was ‘not right,’ when mental illness was whispered about in the privacy of kitchens and in secret family meetings. I grew up in the years before talk shows broadcasted from every channel on TV, when people didn’t divulge their heartache, their disappointment. I grew up in a time when private grief was the only kind around.

Being a child of that time, I learned my lessons well. I kept silent when I watched my sister, Becky, mash her food to a sloppy mush before eating it, something she does to this day. I kept silent when she ripped the heads off all her dolls, arms and legs, too. We’d find body parts strewn across the floor or tucked in some corner, the plastic flesh brittle and cold. I didn’t speak the night my parents and I came home from grocery shopping to discover my sister had filed her front teeth into sharp points against the stone mantle over the fireplace. She was fourteen and we’d only been gone a half-hour. And I kept silent when she went to an institution, her little girl body pressed against the window, watching my parents and me drive down the road.

Now, after forty years, I'm ready to speak.

excerpt with permission from the author
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