INCLUDEnyc Voices

The last word

I’m a talker and always have been. I was talking the ears off of strangers since I learned to speak. My little brother - not so much. Matthew, or Matteo as he’s been nicknamed, is non-verbal and has autism.

Growing up, we were close. Matteo might not have used words, but he still communicated with us, and sometimes it only took a look for my siblings and me to know what he wanted. But when I moved out of state for college, staying in touch with my brother was challenging. This was the pre-smartphone era — way back in brick cell phone days. So what did I do as a talker? I called.

Someone would hold up the phone to my brother’s ear, and I would talk. And talk. And talk until he handed the phone back. That was our routine. One time, after being interrupted shortly into a story, my mom told me that Matteo heard my voice, kissed the phone, and then handed it back. That was his, “It’s great to hear from you. I don’t really have time to listen. Love you. Bye.”

I still live far from my family, but technology has changed how I can communicate with them, especially with my brother. These days I frequently video chat my parents and brother. At first, Matteo would watch and listen to me for a short period, waving bye and walking away when he wanted to do something else, sometimes dragging my parents away too. Then he figured out how to hang up on me. Now when I see the looming finger coming closer to the screen, I know I’ve talked too much. My brother may not say anything, but he always has the last word.

- Kaitlin