My Banished Brother

April 1, 2016
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The first time I saw my brother, Jimmy, he was 60 years old, and I was standing at his hospital bedside in the town of Dunkirk, N.Y. He was intubated with intractable pneumonia and lay in a drug-induced sleep, his sparse ginger hair so different from the rest of my brunette family. His ID bracelet showed his birth date: June 26, 1953, exactly 18 months after mine. Until that moment, I hadn’t known his birthday.

Ten days earlier, I was at work in New York City when my phone rang. A voice said, “This is Wanda from your brother Jimmy’s group home.” Tears came instantly, although I’d never heard of her and had no idea why she was calling.

Jimmy was the third of my parents’ four children, born severely disabled with Down syndrome. “Send him away and put him out of your mind,” they were told.

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Image: By Gryffindor – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

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