I hope you share what you learn.
Thanks for the support guys. I wasn't thinking the details would be interesting to anyone but me, but I want to write down the main points somewhere so here is as good as any place.
The woman is in denial about my brother. My brother has OCD and ASD (autism spectrum disorder). He's not non-verbal or anything, but he finds it very hard to function in society. Descriptions of aspergers never fit, think a little more intense than that but not as intense as needing in-home care.
Anyway, my mother told me that my brother doesn't really have autism -- she says that as a child he was developing autism but she took care of him so well that she was able to prevent it from forming (anyone who knows anything autism will know just how ludicrous that is). She says that because she knew he wasn't trying to be difficult on purpose, by giving into his every demand and making sure he was never alone she prevented my brother from learning to hate society -- which according to her is the true cause of autism (she honestly thinks the prevalence of using "time out" in schools is one reason for the increase of autistic children) . The part of this that is helpful to me is her unintended admission that she never sought to curb his behavior, even when it was violent. She pretty much gave into what ever he wanted.
Though in her warped perspective, "he was never violent because it wasn't willful." Those were her exact words. She honestly thinks that punching, kicking, biting, and just generally attacking me cannot be called violent because of his mental state. It's one thing to say the perpetual violence was not his fault -- that I could agree with (its her fault). But to refuse to even recognize that the actions were violent is to live in a world of illusion where teeth and fists don't hurt.
She says my brother and I never fought. At the same time, though, she says we were a handful. Her words: "Its like someone handing you two ice cream cones. You think if one is good then two must be better, but once you are holding both of them you realize its too hard and you end up just not being able to enjoy either."
So that's my mother sees my brother and I. Two "treats" that ended up being more than she bargained for. I'm not going to downplay how hard things were for her. My father was never emotionally available to her, and I know one on one of the few times that he did look after my brother as an infant he got so frustrated that he threw a mug of coffee onto him. So better just to keep him out of it. And from all accounts, my brother was a very weird young child, with delayed speech and freaky looking spasms and all sorts of other things that are no fun.
Her solution, though, was to just expect me to look after him. She says he was never alone. But what she really means is that when they got sick of him, they put me in charge of him. Remember that I am only 15 months older. I asked her about my memories of being in charge of him, down to figuring out what both of us were going to eat for lunch almost every day during the summer. Her response: "Oh, you know I was just raised to be able to make myself food by the time I was 8." First of all, that's bullshit. She's referring to the fact that she went to a high school where you could walk home in the middle of the day for lunch. She would come home and make herself food because her mother would always make sure there were decent things to make. And she claims that was when she was 8, but it wasn't. It was when she was in her teens. And (most importantly) there is a big difference between a kid making himself lunch and a kid being the emotional and physical caregive to a developmentally disabled sibling. When I was a child, both of my parents would tell me my hardships at taking care of him were due to my lack of having the proper attitude toward family responsibilities. To this day, they still heavily imply that my attitude is my only real problem. But all I have to do is remember them getting in the car and driving away to know that it isn't me that shirked my responsibility, it was them.
So my mother doesn't think that neglecting to leave us anything for lunch day after day is a big deal. Or that expecting me to care for my brother's physical needs and emotional outbursts was an unfair burden. She also doesn't think it was a big deal to treat me like her emotional support. Again, her exact words: "You knew me so well. You always knew what I was really feeling inside, even as a young child." Talk about creepy. But enlightening. Later she said: "you were always such a good kid. You never had any problems, and I was so grateful for that." She really did perceive me as being capable, willing, and successful in being a pint-sized emotional confidant and partner. In order to deal with all the stress of my brother, she closed off her mind to the possibility that there was ever any issues with me. I was a receptacle of my brother's violence and a receptacle of my mother's neediness.
So that's what I learned. She went away feeling happy and probably cathartic. It was probably like old times for her, being able to tell me her inner soul and me just taking it in. And I had to do internal checks with myself constantly . . . like literally ever minute . . . to make sure I kept myself in the present and remembering that I was playing a role and not actually back in that awful "I exist only to make other people happy" mindset. The emotional fallout over the last 24 hours has been rough, but I think I've come out of it the winner. I know one thing: if I ever doubt again that she is the crazy one (not me) all I have to do is look at all the crazy rationalizations and myth-making she expounded on here and I'll remember that anything she says is probably the exact opposite of reality.
If its not willful its not violent . . . autism can be fixed through avoiding confrontation . . . children can be emotional partners to their parents . . . children should be happy and willing to take complete responsibility for a developmentally disabled child who is practically the same age. These are statements that are so stupid when said out loud, its really kind of amazing that the person who said them ever had any power over me. But she did, and really still does unless I remember constantly just how unworthy she is of my allegiance.