Cousin Carl

Carl was born at a time when persons with Downs Syndrome were institutionalized almost from birth but that was never a consideration for my aunt and uncle. The family lived in a small town in the Maritimes surrounded by family and a close community so Carl stayed at home.

Family parties were pretty raucous in those days and Carl was always right in the middle of everything. He was quite a bit older than me so my first memories are of him as an older teenager. He smoked; I remember ,as did everyone in those days but Carl would have been a pack a day man until one afternoon. Carl was sitting next to my grandfather and Grandad said “Carl, cigarettes are bad for you”. Carl put his cigarette out and never smoked again for the rest of his life…

Carl lived at home with his parents and was loved and accepted until in his early 50’s both parents had passed away and the surviving relatives were all too old to take him in and a group home was sought. The family was torn about this solution but luckily found a wonderful small option home not too far away and Carl was happy there. Best of all he was cared for and safe and he lived out his days there passing away from natural causes in his late 60’s.

Like many born with Downs Carl had a special skill, his was mimicry. He could imitate anyone especially people on television. He would imitate the newscaster Lloyd Robertson so perfectly “that’s the kind of day it was” you couldn’t tell the difference. Long after my grandfather died Carl would “do Uncle Jack” and it was like grandad was in the room.

Carl was so brave, leaving home for the first time and living among strangers but he was lucky too that he was in a safe place with carers who put his well being first.

I have been thinking about Carl a lot this week.