Blinded by jealousy: Teen recounts about-turn

Observer staff reporter

Friday, April 26, 2019

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CHILDREN with siblings who have special needs are often expected to shower them with love and attention, but for Fabrizio Derby, his love for his autistic brother was blinded by jealousy.

It was an emotion so strong that Fabrizio spent years competing with his older brother, who was oblivious to his efforts.

The Ardenne High School head boy, whose relationship with his brother is now much improved, shared how he had struggled with being jealous of his brother, Steve Wright, whose cries for attention he had simply ignored.

“I was always told that he was special. The only time I remember my brother crying was because of me. Eerie sounds. My synapses glitched. My mother's shouts set them back in order,” he read as the audience at the Child Month media launch last week Thursday listened with rapt attention.

“She made it clear that it was my fault, that all Steve wanted to do was talk to me and I was too busy with homework to give him any attention.

“I ignored him. He got enough attention from my parents, anyway. He always got the last dumpling from the pot, and they'd still ask me to share my food with him,” Fabrizio continued.

However, he said at one point he was consumed by guilt after his brother screamed: “Fabrizio doesn't love me!”

“It haunted me. But this wasn't enough to make me change. I was driven by jealousy. High grades, numerous awards — all to make my brother feel the jealousy I felt. But my parents didn't comply — a pat on the back, my congratulations,” he said, noting that even strangers were drawn to his brother.

However, Fabrizio said he finally overcame his jealousy and, for the first time, truly saw his brother. This after he saw his mother weeping following a diagnosis that her son, who was already blind in one eye and autistic with hypertension, was losing sight in the other eye.

“I was 12 years old when my mother burst through the door crying uncontrollably. My father's arms provided no solace. I stood paralysed.

“Then out came Steve, smiling. Like antagonistic muscles my mother's tears increased the more my brother smiled. That cynical smile. That smile that said nothing can bother me. For some reason, it upset me. Until my mother, like waves crashing onto my shores of jealousy, had shared the diagnosis that he was slowly getting blind, my synapses filled with lightning from the torrents,” Fabrizio said.

The Ardenne High student, who one day hopes to become a neurosurgeon, said he learnt then that his brother's sight was almost gone and his mother's tears washed away every jealous emotion he felt towards his brother.

“For the first time, I saw Steve. I had always looked at him, blurred by jealousy. But now, I saw him. I saw that smile that was completely oblivious to everything around him. While I was so concerned with 'doing better' than him, he was concerned with being his best self. I was selfish.

“Science had always intrigued me so I wanted to be a doctor. But my mother's tears chose my speciality — neurology. At first, it may have been an effort to make up for all the bitterness I had for Steve, but soon it became my fixation,” he told the audience.

Neurology is a branch medicine that deals with the study of mental disorders; a study that deals with the diagnosis of issues relating to the central and peripheral nervous systems and even their effector tissue.

But for Fabrizio, neurology “is the study of that pink, tangible matter that is capable of perceiving the intangible; the intangible of my brother and I: Love”.

According to the teenager, his relationship with his brother is still not perfect but it is much more loving. In fact, Fabrizio said Steve has taught him to appreciate the differences in that pink tangibility.

Fabrizio, who described his brother last Thursday as his own kind of poem that cannot be limited by the suffocating conventions of stanzas, said: “As for my brother's poem, I wish to be the publisher, and I urge that we all become publishers in our own right.

“It is time to share the poems of people in our society, poems that can raise awareness on the impact of disabilities and foster a spirit of understanding,” Fabrizio said.

Child Month will be observed in May under the theme “Encourage, Enable, Include Me”, with an emphasis on children with special needs.

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