This is Neil, my younger brother.
This is Brian, my youngest brother.
Last week baby brother Brian turned 40.
Yesterday, both gorgeous daughters and their boyfriends, Neil and I met at my parents house to celebrate.
My sister and her husband and three kids were at the Olympics otherwise they would have been there too.
I know, 40th birthdays are ten a penny but Neil, who is now 44, and Brian weren’t expected to live that long.
They both have Down’s Syndrome and when they were born the medical profession wasn’t overly confident about their life expectancy. Just shows what they knew :).
It’s unusual to have two Down’s children in one family. The reason in ours is that Brian is adopted.
I must have been about nine when mum and dad saw Brian advertised for fostering in the local paper … ‘Sofa for sale’, ‘train to be a plumber’, ‘foster this child’. That sort of thing.
And if I was nine, that would have made Neil about six and our sister Steph about four. Quite a handful when you already have one child who has Down’s Syndrome and three children under ten, to then take on another toddler who has Down’s.
But my parents have a lot of foresight and they had a long-term plan.
They knew that at some point they would become to old to look after Neil properly, and they didn’t want either Steph or I to have to look after him when they presumed we would have our own families and so, they deduced, he would have to eventually go into some sort of assisted living accommodation. If they fostered and then adopted Brian there would be two of them and they could go somewhere together. Quite brilliant.
As life often turns out, it didn’t quite work out that way. Neil is far more able than Brian and although, when they did leave home, they did initially move somewhere together, eventually they moved into places separately that would cater for their needs properly. But they are close to each other and see each other and the rest of us often.
Brian needs more structure and organisation to his day. He needs to be told and shown what to do.
Neil lives in a shared house where they make their own meals and look after themselves to a great extent. He has a job at a garden centre (where he is the longest-serving employee), hobbies and interests. A few years ago he joined a church and was very proud when he took Communion. He is currently learning to play the drums (huge mistake, silly, silly people lol).
Growing up with them was never dull, always fun, and it still is.
Neil was a little bugger, always getting up to mischief. Sometimes it was unintentional like the time he decided to ‘help’ with the laundry and put an entire box of plaster in the washing machine instead of washing powder! That didn’t do the water system or the washing machine much good.
Sometimes he was deliberately being a little sod (he inherited the family evil sense of humour). He once made a bolt for it in a town centre and when we finally found him, he was sitting in the booth of a car park waiting until the cars came to the exit and then putting the barrier down so they couldn’t get out. The queue was huge and the car park attendant was terrified hehe.
Or there was the time he sent Brian out to sea. Dad had a rubber dinghy that he had tied a very strong piece of rope to. He’d put the boys in it and they’d bob along safely on the waves and when they were finished he’d pull them in. Neil put Brian in it, pushed him out to sea, threw the rope in after him and was standing on the shore waving and yelling ‘Bye Brian’ as Brian headed towards France. I had to swim out and pull him back :).
See, never dull.
Having these two as members of our family has taught all of us a lot. Especially the next generation. My daughters and my sister’s two sons and daughters have always known people with special needs. It’s taught them tolerance and acceptance, compassion and understanding, as it has the rest of us.
Sadly, it hasn’t taught Neil or Brian any respect for their big sister … as you can see from the final two photos. They still stick their tongue out at me and pull stupid faces lol and I wouldn’t have it any other way :)