My brother has been sober for a year. The small chip in recognition seems minor to the amount of effort expended. A year ago, the country boy was forced into the city with an old pair of tennis shoes, no driver’s license, little money, and only one goal–to get sober. From jail to on-site rehab to a halfway house to low income housing, the country boy has learned the city streets and where to find the meetings and which big box store has the cheapest soda. There were many days when all he had to do was attend meetings. Some days, he attended eight meetings.

There were a few visits to my parent’s home where he could be found pacing, muttering, pacing some more, and abruptly interrupting other conversations. I was stopped with this one day.

“Whadya think of this?”

He shoved some papers in my hand. After a quick read, I found an aptitude test that blatantly spelled out the many deficiencies of my brother who has struggled since I’ve known him to make anything work in his life. He wasn’t really looking for reassurance. He was matter-of-fact and with a shrug he seemed to say, “See? I knew all along that I had a lot wrong with me. Now I have the proof in writing.”

He has no education to speak of, several learning difficulties, depression, and poor communication skills.

I don’t know why some of us have to claw and eek our way towards any little morsel of goodness or success. I don’t know why life just knocks the hell out of some people over and over again. I don’t know why I can’t look at him with conviction and say, “Hey, you’ve made it this far. This is something.”

People, including me, forget so easily that normal is just another word for luxurious.