“Nathaniel, this is the second fight you’ve been in this week and it’s only Wednesday. I know you want to protect Nicky from the bullies, but you’ve got to stop fighting others. You want to protect Nick, but you’re just as bad as the people who make fun of him.” My mom looked weary as she and my dad gave me the same old speech. At this rate, I’d never see a video game again for as long as I lived. I hadn’t watched TV shows I wanted to watch in over a year. My room had basically nothing but a bed. It didn’t matter, I wouldn’t stop threatening and fighting the kids who made fun of my brother until they learned their lesson. I didn’t care how much trouble I got in. It was for Nicky.
I was about five years old the first time I realized that Nicky and I were different. There wasn’t one defining instance that brought me to this realization; it was more a series of instances that led me to become aware that Nicky was not only not like me, but he was also not like other kids. My parents had always treated us the same, never favoring one over the other or coddling Nicky more than me.
Nicky and I are twins. Identical twins. We were born in November and we will turn 25 on our next birthday. I was born 2 minutes before Nicky. Nicky’s full name is Nicholas Edward Morgan. But he’s always been Nick or Nicky, especially with close friends and family. My given name is Nathaniel Joseph Morgan, but I usually go by Nathan or Nate.
When I started noticing that Nick and I were different, I asked my mom about it. She explained that Nick had been deprived of oxygen due to his umbilical cord being twisted. Since birth, he’s always been smaller than me. He struggles with speech sometimes. He has trouble thinking of certain words he wants to use. However, when he’s excited, he talks a mile a minute. He moves a bit more slowly and awkwardly than most; he has a slight limp. But, these challenges have never slowed Nick down. Learning was always harder for him, but he would eventually grasp most things; it just took him longer. He’s always done the same things I’ve done. We played all sorts of sports while growing up. I was always better than Nicky; I was usually better than most of the other players too. Even though I had him on the skill front, Nick always had more heart and gumption than me. He always had to fight that much harder to reach goals, and he worked hard, never giving up.
Once I noticed Nicky was different than me, I also started noticing that a lot of people treated him differently. Kids and adults both would talk to him like he was dumb or they assumed he couldn’t do things so they didn’t even give him a chance. It was around this time that I started sticking up for him and being extra protective. He was my “little brother” and I wouldn’t stand for anyone treating him poorly just because he was different. The worst was when kids made fun of him. They would laugh at how he talked or laugh at him if he missed a goal in soccer or got an answer wrong or they’d mimic his gait. One of the things that set me off quicker than anything was when they called him retard or retarded. I got used to getting in fights protecting my brother and as the bullies got worse, the fights got worse too. The years we were in class together were the easiest because I could keep a better eye on things. The years we ended up separated in different classes were the hardest on both of us. As we grew up, we ran in different social circles, but we were still the best of friends. In high school, my parents decided that Nick would be better off in a trade school setting. So Nick started attending a community trade school, Torey Hope Education Center, where he learned life and job skills in the morning and social skills in the afternoon. This school was perfect for Nick because he got to continue attending there even after graduation. He landed a job at a local grocery store sacking groceries and stocking shelves. Nicky is a great employee; he takes his job seriously and follows instructions to a T. In the afternoon he went to the community center. Nick loved to tell me about his friends and activities at the center. He enjoyed playing ping pong and air hockey with his friends. The center didn’t let the kids just sit and play video games or watch TV so he got his video gaming fun in with me. He had chores at the center. He despised washing dishes because his hands got wrinkly in the water, but he adored bagging up and taking out the trash. He said it made him feel like the trash truck we used to watch pick up trash up and down our street when we were little kids. His favorite part of the center recently became the library. The center hired a new librarian and she is now Nicky’s favorite person. Her name is Miss Elizabeth. He loves when she reads to the group and helps them pick out books. To hear Nick tell it, Miss Elizabeth walks on water.
While Nick was doing what was best for him and his future, I was doing the normal high school and college thing. I enjoyed high school, except for the assholes I still felt the need to keep away from Nicky. I did well in most classes and I was good in whatever activity or sport I chose to do. I had a few really good friends who accepted Nick and never made fun of him. They knew he was part of my life and they never excluded him. That was really important to me. Luckily, since Nicky was in classes at the center, there weren’t as many fights at school once I hit high school. Outside of school was a different story. It sort of became a joke that if I was ever seen WITHOUT a black eye, a busted lip, or bloodied knuckles it would make history. I got in only a few fights in high school, all of them because I’d catch someone making fun of my brother or calling him names when they thought I couldn’t hear. Most of my fights in high school were on the basketball courts where I’d go to play pretty much daily. Guys who knew Nick or me well never pushed things, but the assholes who would make fun of Nick, or any other person with disabilities, always got what was coming to them. No one should be able to get away with hurting someone else.
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