Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Family Matters

"In my day they put people like you in a home. Far away." She was old. Really old. She'd shrunk to the point that it looked like her shoulders were resting right atop her hips. I'd stopped it look at baby clothes in the supermarket while Joe was getting tin foil. I refuse to shop for tin foil. That's a Joe job. So I took my leave of him and went to look for a cute holiday outfit for Ruby who I'm going to see this long weekend.

She came up next to me and was only a little taller than me in my chair. I don't know if she was really looking at clothes - if she was it would have been for her great-great-great-great-grand-daughter. Suddenly she was telling me that in her day I would have been put away somewhere. I was nonplussed.

"Pardon me?" I said politely as I picked up a piece of clothing that could only be described as 'darling'.

"Yes, in my day they put wheelchair people in big homes. Took care of 'em there."

I didn't want this conversation but I just knew that she had come to me to just talk. "Well, we don't do that anymore."

"You work? Got a job?"

I told her that I did. I thought I'd hit her with being a sex therapist for sex offenders- but decided that though she was annoying she wasn't ripe for killing. So I just admitted to being employed.

"Amazing."

"Yes, I guess." Brief, to the point and polite. I was being good.

"My sister's boy was put away. He wasn't in a wheelchair like you, he was just a bit funny. They said it was best for him. Near broke her heart but she wanted to do good by him. She was never the same after."

"What about him, how did he do?" I asked.

She looked shocked. Like her care had only been for what her sister went through. Like he'd been a problem not a person. Like he was gone and truly forgotten. "I have to say I don't know. They didn't encourage visitors. We all just lost touch with him."

"They made a lot of mistakes back then."

"I guess." She seemed suddenly tired. As if the thought of the boy put away had weighed her down. Like his coming to life had taken the life out of her.

"What do you think of this?" I said holding up a little girl summer dress that I thought was cute and a deft way out of the conversation.

"I don't know," she said not paying any attention to the clothes, "why we let him go."

She turned and walked away from me. Not even a goodbye.

I know she was thinking of the boy lost. Her nephew.

I wonder how he is.

I wonder how she'll be.

I wonder why we did what we did.

2 comments:

Nicole said...

My heart aches for the many lives that were totally lost due to the ignorance of our ancestors. In some ways we have come so far and in others we have so far to go. It amazes me how we evolve and at the same time lose so much too.

Anonymous said...

About 13 years ago I was working in a Small Option home with 3 high needs clients. One of the clients had been institutionalized in another province prior to and consequently had not seen her brother in many years. I took it upon myself to write him what I hoped was a heartfelt & sincere letter inviting him to her new home and at least to let him know that she was cared for and in a good place. No reply or visit ever came. I was disappointed. I no longer work with his client but last week one of the staff told me that the brother had come to visited with his sister. My eyes stung as she told me about the visit. He said he was so traumatized by what he saw in the institution where he had last visited her that he vowed never to return. He would have been just a kid at the time. How awfull-I can't imagine. Times change. People change. The lady in the grocery store changed ? Maybe. You made her think. And to be optomistic I'd like to think that she shows up out of the blue to visit her nephew.

L