My dear aunt Elizabeth Jane died this morning. She was born in 1929; not a good year for the US, but a good year for for the world because of her love, grace, dignity and overwhelming strength in the most difficult of circumstances.
Her only child, Jody, who has Down's Syndrome lives up North. Jody was born on MY Birthday, but a year earlier; I guess that means I was born on Jody's first birthday. Like a sign I was to kind of watch over her. Like my twin brothers, I always had a double birthday since we celebrated all birthdays together until we became adults and I grew up and she didn't.
The 50s and 60s were not an easy time to have a mentally challenged child. Back then she was always referred to as 'retarded'. It was the official term and everyone used it. Against the recommendation of doctors, friends and even family my aunt refused to put her daughter in an institution (she also was born with a cleft palate and couldn't feed normally-my aunt kept her alive by sheer willpower. Then the doctors told her Jody would not live to be an adult and also wouldn't be able to do anything for herself and was not 'educable'. Jody will be 56 this year. She graduated from high school. She can read and write, loves music and singing and just by being in our lives made us better, more compassionate people.
My aunt would not be what I would call a feminist. She was raised to be quite traditional; but it was watching her fight for her daughter; fight for a life of her own; ignoring remarks about her 'kookiness'-that's what they called women who were born artists and pursue the creative arts by hook or by crook.
I still will have her beautiful drawings and paintings AND my memories to remind me of this very gutsy women born during a time when gutsy women were put down socially, verbally, and even at times physically.