My Brother Isn't Normal

I remember crawling into my parents’ bed with my Grandma, wondering when they would be home. Mommy was at the hospital, and she was going to have another baby! I already had one little brother and I couldn’t wait to be a big sister for the second time. I was 4 years old and had practiced my mothering skills for the past two years, now ready to perfect them with another baby brother or sister. Mom brought home a beautiful baby boy, and I was so excited to welcome Alex Anthony (or Brother Bear, as I’ve fondly come to call him) into my life. He was healthy, happy, and oh so cute with a full head of blonde hair and big blue eyes.

When Alex turned 6 months, everything changed. He was still cute, blonde, and blue-eyed, but he wasn’t so healthy or happy anymore. He started having seizures. My parents found him shaking violently, moaning, and drooling in his crib one night and our lives have never been the same since. Alex was diagnosed with epilepsy (a seizure disorder) and eventually as a result suffered some brain damage and developed some cognitive impairments as well. Those early years were quite honestly a blur to me (as I’m sure they were to my parents as well) and being so young I didn’t know life to be any different. I still got to be that mothering “big sister” that I had dreamed of, only with quite the extra set of expectations. Every time I cared for him, there was the very real possibility that 911 had to be called. Who knew this whole mothering thing would be so demanding for a 5 year old?

As Alex grew up, so did I. Very quickly. At age 7, I was helping administer medication to him. At age 10, I was preparing his meals that required special measurements because of the diet he was on. At age 13, I was kneeling on the floor by his side, holding a cold compress to his head to keep the seizures at bay. At age 16, I was explaining to all of my friends who came over for birthday parties that he really would be okay after falling and hitting his head during the onset of a seizure. At age 20, I was driving him to his high school prom (special education edition) to take pictures of him in his suit and tie that he was so proud to be wearing. At age 27, I cried tears of happiness as I watched him proudly walk our grandmother down the aisle at my wedding. He ended up having a seizure on this day as well, but thankfully the support of friends and family and some time before the reception for him to rest allowed him to enjoy most of the evening with us.

Photo by J&E Fusion

Photo by J&E Fusion

Life with Alex has been different. It hasn’t been normal. Because Alex isn’t normal. He’s extraordinary. He is my very own angel here on earth. Growing up, I thought that I was the one that was teaching Alex about life. Ironically enough, I now realize that the whole time, HE was the one teaching ME everything I ever need to know about life:

- That money doesn’t matter. People do.

- That a smile and a hug are really the only two things you need to experience every day.

- That saying “I Love You” and “I’m sorry” are the only words that you really need to remember to use.

- That making someone laugh is so much more important than being better than them at anything.

- That your faith, family, and friends are far more important than any material items in this entire world.

- That sometimes life’s most difficult challenges really do lead you exactly where you’re supposed to be.

- That it’s okay to watch your favorite Disney movies 300 times in a row because you like them that much (seriously I have almost every line in every movie memorized because of this kid).

- That there is ALWAYS room for dessert.

- That no matter what people think or say about you, or what people perceive you to be — it is up to YOU to be the best version of yourself and not give their opinions a second thought.

- That being “normal” isn’t really a thing. My brother isn’t normal. But neither am I. And neither are you. And that is perfectly alright.

I could literally continue writing this list forever. My little brother has taught me more in his 24 years of life than I could have possibly learned on my own. Thank goodness for my mom and dad for bringing this sweet little boy into the world and changing all of our lives for the better. I thank the Lord everyday that although Alex may not be normal, he is here and he is happy and he is (for the most part) healthy… and he still has that full head of blonde hair, blue eyes, and a personality that melts hearts and changes lives.

My mom Joan Broggi wrote a book about her experience raising a child with special needs titled “Bursting with Joy”. You can check out her website if you are interested in learning more or purchasing a copy of the book to read. You are also welcome to email me at



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