When I Look Back
by Jay Hancock
When I look back at life it’s difficult for me to order my thoughts into a coherent list of experiences. With that in mind this is a stream of consciousness recollection of my life and experience with my brother and best friend, Justin.
I have always wanted to help people. Early in life this desire manifest itself in my desire to attain a degree. My goal at that time was to attend law school to help try ensure that rights were protected. After attaining my under graduate degree I decided that perhaps law school wasn’t where I needed to be. I decided to become a police officer and later a detective. As a detective I investigate crimes committed against the most vulnerable, children. I fall short often and sadly justice is a rare thing, but I still have a desire to help.
This desire to help people never really extended to my twin brother Justin. Justin has cerebral palsy and has spent his life gaining mobility from various wheel chairs and folks that were just willing to pick him up and carry him. At no point in that time did he complain to me. This is most likely due to the fact that he knows I wouldn’t be a very sympathetic ear. As a child I had no concept of what he dealt with. Every year or two he had to undergo another surgery. Most of these operations involved either breaking a bone or cutting a muscle to hope that things grew back in a certain way, thus helping Justin gain better movement. I had no sympathy for what he was dealing with. For me these times were just another opportunity for Justin to receive gift baskets and treats from the folks at church. As he healed from these operations he would often cry due to the pain, I just wanted him to calm down and stop asking me to play another game of Nintendo Baseball or Tecmo Bowl so that I could go outside and play with my friends.
I tormented him. He jokes about it with a laugh now, but I know I was hurtful. When we were very young the only defense Justin had was to try and bite me. As a young child I figured out that if I bit myself I could blame him. If Hollywood had any desire to make a TV show called CSI:Hancock it could focus on my fear that my parents would somehow learn bite mark analysis.
Every summer Justin would attend the Texas Lions Camp outside of Kerrville, TX. For me this meant that I got a weekend in a cool hotel with a pool when we dropped him off. For Justin it meant that he got to spend several weeks with other physically challenged children as they got to partake in the same activities that everyone would love at summer camp. It also was several weeks that I spent being jealous that I wasn’t disabled and getting to attend that camp. Surely there was nothing he dealt with that I couldn’t handle myself. He was spoiled.
Luckily the good and the blessings throughout our life have far outweighed the bad. As much as I complained and as much as we argued with each other he was always my best friend. When we were young we couldn’t stand to sleep in separate rooms. In Middle School I was the defender towards anyone that wanted to say something negative about Justin. High School is where we finally became the friends we are today. Starting the first summer of high school we attended a church camp together. Instead of hiring an attendant to help Justin the agreement was that I was to help him. It was those weeks that I gain a small bit of insight into Justin’s daily life. Even growing up in the same room as him I had never been the one to help him shower, dress, etc. It forced us to work with each other for an extended period of time. It also meant that in large part we had no break from each other. In those weeks we became closer. It was those weeks that truly led us to who we are today.
Not only did those weeks help us develop our friendship they also impacted our beliefs and actions today. I look back at those weeks and see Justin developing into the speaker and advocate he now is.
Every one of our experiences has been shaped by Justin’s cerebral palsy. Whether it was my actions when we were younger or our growth into great friends as we aged each of those are directly connected to the experience of disability. Whether it is Justin’s physical struggles, or my emotional struggles as I viewed his experience I can’t imagine a different life.