Marshanne Mishoe is an author, wife and mother who makes her home just north of Atlanta, GA. Her new book called, “The Mind of a Child,” is a dual story line, with a woman who gets a job as an assistant teacher in a Special Needs classroom with absolutely no experience, leading to often comical results. The other part of the book tells the fictional story of a woman who has a Down Syndrome baby in 1940. The story delves into how the child’s disability affects his whole family, and the drastic step the family takes when they feel they have no options. This story is based on her grandmother’s life. But there were other family members who were also affected by this special child’s life. Read on.
Imagine being a little boy with a brother who has special needs? What if we are talking about 1940 when not much was known about the genetic ailment, eventually called, Down Syndrome?
Well this was my father’s life. He was older by two years than his brother, called “Bubba.” They were close in some ways because all they had was each other for friends. Their parents were loving but busy working and Dad and Bubba had to keep each other entertained.
Now imagine that you had grown very resentful of your brother, whose latest stunt involved man-handling your 10th birthday cake, tearing down the decorations and causing the guests to leave the party early. You were sick and tired of Bubba getting away with all sorts of bad behavior and you let your parents know about it.
Then, one day, your parents call you in and sit you down. They tearfully say that they have decided to send your only brother away, to a “school” for children like Bubba. How would you feel? This is where I have to make my best guess, because my father has never spoken to me or anyone else that I know of, about this very important happening in his childhood.
I imagine my father, as a 10-year-old boy, felt a mix of feelings. He probably felt scared about the change, he probably was curious about where his brother was going. He probably felt excitement to have the little pain-in-the-neck gone. But mostly, I imagine he felt guilt. Heavy guilt. Like the kind a child stuffs down so that he can put forth a brave face. He probably thought the impetus for the decision was his birthday party. And since it was his party, it had to be his fault.
I can imagine my father going with his parents to drop his brother off at the school, which was a five-hour car ride away from home, and wondering how his parents could just leave his brother there. Except for hospital stays, Bubba would never leave the school again. This could have made my father angry. And I can imagine his scared, tear-stained face in the rear window of the family car as they drove away, now as a family of only three.
Fast forward thirty or so years, and my dad is a grown man, of course, with a family of his own. He was paralyzed with fear when his first daughter was born looking so beat up, with a squished head. The doctors had to reassure him repeatedly that it was the forceps that caused this appearance and that his daughter was fine.
As his daughter grew, she would relish the visits from her grandparents. They lavished love and attention on her like no one else. But many times, during these visits, her grandparents and her father got very sad and had to make a mysterious trip to visit an uncle, with the mind of a child. Plead as she might, they never let her go with them. So now the daughter starts storing away misconceptions.
Finally, as an adult, the daughter realizes that this uncle has Down Syndrome. She even meets him, twice before his death.
My father’s birthday is February 26th, and he will be 79 years old. But I know, for a fact, although he has never told me, that he still thinks about and longs for that kid brother who suddenly went away.
“The Mind of a Child” is available now on Amazon.com. I’m putting it on my must read list and I hope you do the same!