Gitmo Six

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Explaining about my brother Duane's disabilities and the extra effort we made to give him the same opportunities my brother Gary and I had.



Growing up with a younger brother with disabilities can be what you make it. Being Duane’s older brother brought its own list of responsibilities. My brothers were told that when our parents weren’t around, Mike is in charge, mind him. Hmmm!  All that meant was I would be the first one to get his tail beat when they got home.


Gary and Duane, eight months apart, seemed closer to each other than to me. I guess because I was supposed to be almost an adult. I was 8. If we had a physical disagreement, it was them against me. If I had an unfair advantage, it was because I was bigger and smarter.


Living in close quarters all those years you can say we lived outside the norm. Our best times were when we enjoyed our unsupervised freedom. If the movie theater was showing a Disney movie our parents would let us go alone.  We walked about 5 or 6 blocks, less than a half a mile. Since we were his sons, we sat in Dad’s reserved seats.


Duane stood alone in line for popcorn and a coke. When it was his turn to make an order, he would purposely trip and fall. Then start crying, saying that he dropped his money and he was hungry. That worked every time. After the third time he pulled it off, we all had popcorn.


The news reel played before every show. Being cut off from the rest of the world, seeing the news events from around the globe was a ray of sunshine. I remember how sad everyone was when Marilyn Monroe died. I knew who she was. We saw her picture in the barracks quite a few times.


It was easier for me to carry Duane piggy back style than to wait on him to keep up. It made me a stronger person. I don’t mean strength wise, but yeah that too. No, I mean carrying someone on your back everywhere meant that you were responsible for them.



If Duane had to use the bathroom, that meant we both had to use the bathroom.  He always carried a canteen for the times I set him down and told him to not to move, wait ‘til I get back. Sometimes after his operations it would be months before he could take a step. I carried him everywhere. We began to think as one.  He knew when I was getting tired before I did.


Years later Duane outlasted his many operations. He was still crippled. He could walk on his own though.  He could even trot a little, he just had a hitch in his giddyup. 

He finally told Dad that he’d had enough, “No more operations. I am the way I am.” 


There wasn’t anything wrong with his mind though. He loved reading about sports. All sports. He could quote stats on almost every player, any sport. He enjoyed playing ball and didn’t want any special treatment.


I never really thought of Duane as being crippled, maybe he was, and maybe he wasn’t.  I guess it’s just a matter of how you look at things.

Submitted: April 16, 2021

© Copyright 2022 mike frailey. All rights reserved.

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