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Glenn and Gavin; brothers in arms

Brothers in Arms

Gavin successfully runs his own business, is a husband to Natasa and father to little Elsie. Here, Gavin talks to his family bond and his sibling relationship with his older brother Glenn. Glenn is 44; He’s an artist, a sportsman, an adventurer and also lives with cerebral palsy.

Our family dynamics

Our family dynamic is extremely unique – and that’s what I love about ‘us’. I think purely from our upbringing we are all laid back in nature and have a fairly decent grasp on perspective. We are a very strong unit and tend to just get on with things rather than dwell on small detail. Most importantly we laugh, all the time! Despite the challenges we have faced and continue to face, we are very happy.

My mother is the rock. She is a true matriarch in every sense and despite being the butt of everyone’s jokes, we would literally fall apart without her. My sister is the voice of reason, but empathetic with that. She is heavily involved in Glenn’s day to day well-being; whether it be respite staff, a physiotherapist, speaking with specialists, Cerebral Palsy Alliance or an occupational therapist – she is great at managing that side of things alongside Mum. My father was diagnosed with Motor Neurons Disease four years ago, so his life has taken a cruel twist. He is most definitely a true ‘dad’, not just for Glenn but for all of us. He was so hands on, making several items by hand such as a beach wheelchair and a bike trailer. Everything was custom made for Glenn, to help him live life to the fullest. This ability has been tragically taken away from Dad due to his illness, and sadly he is no longer in a position to help as he used to.

Glenn is the shining light of the family. His nickname is ‘Golden Child’ because he is the bright spark. Whenever you are feeling down or things that shouldn’t matter are getting to you, 15 minutes with Glenn will have you smiling and back on track.

I find it hard to reflect and define my role in the family, as I’m sure most people would. My role has changed over the years, and these days I am more of a ‘doer’. If things just aren’t moving forward or not getting done, I’m there to lend a hand and be the blunt one. So my role is to just do what I can when I can, be the constant, the go to person when we hit a dead end, as I am usually quite definitive with my approach. But mainly I just provide manual assistance, and inject some laugher when I feel it’s needed.

A bond like no other

Glenn and I have a great deal in common. We both love sport, we have a similar taste in music (although I stop at Michael Jackson), neither of us like fuss and we both like things to be kept simple.

I have been asked a few times over the years about my relationship with Glenn. Glenn to me is Glenn. I don’t know any different and I don’t care to. I speak to him in the same way anyone would speak with their sibling. We argue, we tease each other, we have ‘in jokes’ and I only have to look at him once and he laughs knowing exactly what I’m thinking. For me, it’s a normal brotherly loving relationship.

However he is, in my eyes, the most inspirational person on this planet. And the person who has shaped who I have become - more than he will probably ever know. I guess that may be a direct result of how he lives with the challenge of cerebral palsy every day. I also like to believe we have a bond that is stronger than most, and for that I am truly thankful.

When life gives you lemons

It’s hard not to be constantly reminded of my brother’s disability. Having grown up with and surrounded by people living with disability, I am constantly reminded of how complicated life can be when you are limited in movement or reliant on a wheelchair, and often restricted in communication. We always plan with Glenn in mind. Be it booking a holiday, dining at a restaurant, visiting a specialist, or simply going out for a leisurely family afternoon - we must always consider Glenn’s needs.

One classic situation that springs to mind is a visit to a doctor who specialises in working with people with disability. We arrived at the appointment to find that the Practice didn’t have wheelchair access. Twenty minutes later we had created a ramp using the ‘welcome mat’ so we could get Glenn into the building and to his ‘specialist’ appointment. These situations still never cease to amaze me in modern day society.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

If I could impart one learning from being Glenn’s bro, it would simply be that life is too short. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Get out there and live. Having Glenn in my life has done nothing but given me absolute perspective on what is important, what really matters and how to prioritise my life. For all the struggles, obstacles and restrictions placed on him and his life, he is the happiest most positive person I know. He will give just about anything a go, if he believes in it.

Glenn is bound to a wheelchair, cannot speak and has minimal control over his muscles, yet he has performed at the Opera House several times, abseiled, sailed a boat, sold art to a member of the public in a gallery, represented NSW in Boccia, been in a V8 supercar, ridden on a Harley Davidson and had countless other life experiences that you and I could certainly achieve but never will because we don’t get out there and give it a go like he does.