This memoir was written to honor my youngest brother’s influence over my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, of living with a Down Syndrome sibling. It tells the story of the children of my family, despite our parents’ frailties, remaining committed to each other through life’s many changes and separations. Who I am today is directly related to who I needed to become.
“As the intertwined life stories of the author and her brother Bruce emerge, the story takes on a new tone. Bitterness and rancor are replaced with a gentle kind of mellowness and a roaring-fire-on-a-cold-winter-day kind of warmth. This is underscored when the author writes that her plans for Bruce were “to open and enrich his world.” In the end, however, she realizes how being with Bruce “accomplished so much more.” She realizes how this “sweet small man” and “Bruce’s” capacity to love and to “just go on because there was no other choice” profoundly influenced her life. And how Bruce opened and enriched her world.
Oh, and the title? You’ll have to read the book for yourself to figure that one out. Flavored with gentle humor and tongue-in-cheek wit, Listen to Me isn’t a long read. At about 30,000 words, you can finish it in an afternoon. But the reflections and insights will reverberate much longer.”- Kristine, Pages and Paws
“This book is a touching story about the unconditional love between an older sister and her brother, Bruce. The prose is uplifting and inspirational, without the traces of ableism that can be found in other such works. The overall message is a plea to see people for who they are, not their diagnosis and aims to increase disability awareness.”- Laura Quinn, Laura Quinn Writes
“This memoir is exactly what I needed. It made me laugh and cry and helped me appreciate the people in my life even more than I already did. Bruce’s love for his family, friends, and favorite rock ‘n’ roll idols lives on through this book. His larger-than-life personality left such an impression on me; I can honestly say that I feel like I know him without ever having met him. I think about him from time to time and his essence inspires hope in me, showing me how precious it is to have an innocent view of life at any age.
This book means so much to me. Lynne Podrat is a true artist with her words and the life she created around the people she loves. Her tenacity and devotion to her family—and herself—is unparalleled. She is a badass. If I could just accomplish half of what she has, I would be happy.”-Sandi, Proof Reader Sandi
This book was filled with every emotion! It tells the story of Bruce and the family that loved him. Of his bond with his family, especially with his sister Lynne. Bruce brought so much joy during his lifetime to not only his siblings and other family members, but also to everyone who knew him.
Sadly Bruce dealt with health issues during his life but still, he had a happy, loving, wonderful life and brought love and laughter to everyone he met.
I rarely join book tours anymore, but I sure am glad I joined this time. This story will stay with me for a very long time.
SEPTEMBER 19, 1980
I had been married four years, living in my own home on Levick Street across from Tarken Playground. I was near my parents and soon Bruce would be a bar mitzvah. Bar mitzvah? How the hell did that happen? Thirteen years had flown by.
David and I were in college. I was at Temple Ambler working on my MBA and David was close to graduation from Gynedd Mercy. We were aware of the positive changes in Special Education Standards having had friends in the field, so learning that our synagogue—with its huge congregation and day school had no one capable of preparing Bruce for his special day was incredulous. He would be taught and bar mitzvahed at a reform synagogue in Elkins Park, PA, called Kenneth Israel because they were more “equipped” to handle him. Imagine your whole family being members of an institution for fifteen years—my father on the board of Men’s Club, Mom involved in Sisterhood, me active in youth group, USY, and overnight camp—but needing to go elsewhere because your congregation was not equipped.
“There isn’t one congregant in this synagogue certified in Special Education who can work out a plan with us? No tape could be made so that Bruce could play it and learn the prayers by heart as they do for other kids? He knows words to a bazillion songs and can sign fluently. You don’t think we can get him to learn this?” I was speechless. Well, after this tirade I was speechless. I wanted to meet with the rabbi. The rabbi who had bar mitzvahed David. The same rabbi who had married me. I could not accept his resignation at not wanting to be involved with this latest and even more special simcha (blessing). Sensing my parents’ discomfort, I did not go to the rabbi. This was for them to handle and if they didn’t want to make waves in their synagogue, it wasn’t for me to make them un‐ comfortable. Of course, making waves is how change comes about and can be accomplished with grace and respect. Bruce would manage to do that on his own.
I did insist upon two things: the rabbi’s attendance on that day and a celebration. While over my parent’s house for dinner one Sunday with David and his significant other, we were teasing Bruce about his part and singing along with him for practice. “Is the reception right after the bar mitzvah or on Sunday?” David asked my dad nonchalantly. I had been bugging him to ask this for weeks be‐ cause my parents changed the subject or got testy whenever I broached the subject. He insisted I was imagining things, but finally agreed to ask. “There is no party!” Dad yelled looking at me. “He’s having a service with family. Isn’t that enough?” Like they were doing me a great favor. “No, not enough. Not even close. “You get more excited about my dogs learning a new trick than about your own son’s accomplishments.” I was done. I left.
IN RETROSPECT, my anger was more frustration and heartache for my parents who dearly loved but could not appreciate Bruce. They could only feel guilt and responsibility for his shortcomings, being constantly reminded of his handicap. Janice, Ms. Lee, Cedric, the other caregivers in his group homes, David, and I on the other hand reveled in all of Bruce’s wins, taking great pleasure in watching him get there and sharing this joy with as many people as possible.
Suffice it to say, Bruce did have his bar mitzvah in September of 1980. I cried through the entire service, kvelling (the Yiddish word for beaming with pride) with David by my side. Even my father- in-law who, like Mikey hated everything, was impressed. Our rabbi was present, and a lovely luncheon for family and friends followed, held in my home. This was good. This was right. Overcome by the service, witnessing the love and support for Bruce by Kenneth Israel’s rabbi and teachers, KenCrest caretakers, and our friends, my rabbi real‐ ized what he and his congregation were missing. Change was on the way. Bruce continued his influence on world domination with grace and respect. My heart still smiles at this memory, a framed picture of Bruce with his first girlfriend on a shelf as a reminder. David and I still appreciate how lucky we are to have had this gift.
About The Author
Lynne Podrat graduated from the Pennsylvania State University and then spent fifteen years in the Fashion Industry as an Assistant Buyer and Department Manager with Bloomingdales Department Store before returning to school to receive her educational degrees from Arcadia University and Gynedd Mercy.
A retired educator and Administrator from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania School District, she taught English, literature, composition, and history in elementary and secondary schools.
She has secretly been a writer and poet her whole life but has only recently chosen to share those talents with the world. Lynne now lives with her husband in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, spending winters dragon boating where her heart races and summers hiking the Rockies in Vail, Colorado where her heart sings.
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