I was very little when my brother Murray left our home for the special school in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. My mom remembers that as he was being loaded into the car I told him, tearfully, "Nobody loves you Murray, but I do". Gut-wrenching to me, even now. It was not unusual back then for children with developmental disabilities like Down's Syndrome to be institutionalized and for my mom, having lost her husband and then her own mother to cancer, with two other children to care for and struggling to maintain her job as a nurse to support us, it seemed like the right if not the only choice.
I was probably as close to my baby brother as one could be and I suppose we bonded even more when our older sister Karen went off to kindergarten. So while I fight to remember my father's passing I have no difficulty vividly recalling the day Murray left. As confounding and upsetting as it was for me, I cannot begin to describe how it shattered my mom and after everything she had suffered, I have often wondered how she lived through it. Nothing that I am going through or have ever gone through comes close to what she had to endure. Over the years I know she experienced tremendous guilt over this decision which was magnified when we left Manitoba after she remarried. As for me, I often dreamed of rescuing him...we would live together forever and I would make sure he would never be vulnerable or alone. It was a lovely little dream.
And yet, somehow for Murray fate was kind. He bonded with his music teacher at his new school to such a degree that the teacher, his wife and children took Murray into their own home and he became a very treasured member of their family and remains close to them to this day. He lives now in a group home in Winnipeg, has a job and a daily routine that includes "reading" the paper each morning and fastidiously ensuring the coffee mugs are washed and put precisely where they are supposed to be. He has attained a level of independence that I think we all realize would likely never have been achieved had he remained with us...our forever baby...our precious wee boy.