This post was written by Julie Scott-Trask, Oakville, Ontario. An excerpt from "The IDEAL Way to Cook: Food for Thought".
David is 59 years old and very proud of it. He is my big brother and he has Down syndrome. Born at a time when there were more questions than answers, my parents were told that he would never walk or talk or be very much of anything. The well-meaning doctors advised my parents to put David away and forget about him. After all, they were young and could have more children.
Growing up in my family, I heard this 'story' many times but didn't really feel the impact of it until last August, 2007. I was having dinner with my son, Cameron, and my daughter Adrienne. Cameron was 18 and Adrienne was 21. I was suddenly struck by what seemed to me to be a remarkable coincidence. I was exactly the age my mother was when she died in 1984 and Adrienne was the same age my mother was when she gave birth to my brother, David. In that moment, as I looked at my daughter so full of fun, freedom and excitement about her fashion course, I was filled with tremendous tenderness for my mum. For the very first time, I saw her as a young 'girl' alone in London with her husband and was filled with a new understanding of that story. How lost and bewildered they must have felt as they brought their newborn son home, without any words of congratulations, hope or joy.
Mum became a determined pioneer in the course she set out for David. Dad told me that he would leave for work in the morning and mum would be massaging David, and when he came home at night, she had clearly spent the day focused on David's care. He would walk and he would talk, and he did.
I have learned to beware of David saying, "It's not far, just around the corner." That usually means we will turn the right corner eventually!
Growing up with David was not always easy. When we were young, I fought many a fight for him when kids made fun of him. I often pulled faces at adults who openly stared at him, and if that didn't work, I would hiss at the offending adult, "Don't you know it's rude to stare?"
As a teenager, I wanted to be just like other teens. I experimented with make-up and outfits I hoped would look 'cool'. But my self-image took a beating when I was with David. No matter how much work I put into my appearance, David was the only one 'they' saw. I used to think I could be naked, and as long as David was beside me, no one would even notice. My high school was far enough away from home that I could lead a life that was quite independent. At school I was Julie, not David's sister. I had my own identity. I glossed over questions like, "Is your brother cute?" I was also able to relax the constant and exhausting vigilance I had adopted to 'protect' David. When we were home, it was a different story. We never fought, we laughed often and were just a regular brother and sister.
So I often felt very guilty for my negative feelings.