They ain’t heavy, they’re my brothers


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.

No respect lol.

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.

This is what he thinks of big sis :)

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 :)

    • They’re great :) mad as march hares and unconventional but great :)

    • Karen Howarth said:

      lol, do you remember when we decided to empty out the shed to make a den, and your brothers helped we were gonna empty a bit of stuff out and your brothers decided that everything should be turfed out, lol they emptied the entire shed onto your mum and dads lawn…….

      • They always did go over the top :) They loved it when we let them join in x

  1. I always loved visiting as a child. I have fond memories of your lovely family house, Neil’s nicknames for everyone and lots of laughter, often hysterical, as I recall, but always from the heart xx

    • Haha. Yes Neil’s nicknames :) … Dad’s friend Derek was called Carol for about 30 years poor bloke, it even caught on at his work :)

  2. Debs, I really liked this post. Having a child with mild disabilities, she has taught my children a lot about life. Nikki is a special child, not because of her disability, but because she is truly a blessing to the family. She brings joy and laughter to everyone that takes the time to get to know her. She is my oldest, and we love her! I loved hearing about your brothers!!

    • Thanks Barb :) having a special needs child in the family does make you look at the world differently :) xx

  3. You know what Dora (I think I would give you a great big hug if I were there right now) Yours is a generous and loving family. Bless you all. There are 3 things that are the most important to me on the planet with a 4th coming in close. They are family, family, family – The fourth being making a positive difference. Who and how you, your family and friends are covers all of those quite well, quite well indeed. Warmth and affection to you and yours! Proud to be your friend, big time! :)

    • Thank you :) family is so important. I’m very proud to be your friend too :) x

      • Thank you. We are both blessed and lucky with our families. Life is good. :)

  4. A wonderful reason to celebrate! Such blessings and rewards for your loving family! Loved your big sisterly take on things!

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