September 22, 2019
Thinking about my brother
Scrolling through memories a photo of my brother John popped up. My nephew posted several years back. Years ago my mother would follow on Facebook and we all posted photos and such where she could see them. One day she stopped checking her laptop and looking. John passed away over twenty years ago, my mother passed six months back. Perhaps seeing John’s picture got me thinking. I was volunteering at John’s school when Eastern College decided my GPA was not high enough to become a senior. I went to work at John’s school. About 1970 or so. Summer of 1972 my family moved to Georgia on a promise from city of Macon John had a school to go to. John was severely brain injured at birth and at two contracted encephalitis. He was never verbal and or potty trained. His entire life he was anti seizure drugs. Once dads business moved mom followed the school would not accept John. So John was at home. Mom was relentless and found a program on the other side of the river in Macon Lucky Duck Nursery. Ms. Rawls did not bat an eye John was in a program. Interesting fact in Macon at that time white folks were leaving public schools in droves for all the trendy private schools in and around. “Christian” schools many were prefaced. John Mark Bird was the sole minority at Lucky Duck. I decided around the Thanksgiving holiday to move to Georgia and over Christmas break headed south. My father pulled some strings perhaps to make up for my brother lack of acceptance I got into Mercer University. One of my reasons for moving was to also help get a program for John started. Ms. Rawls had several more severely impaired students and her staff were fantastic. But in 1973 Macon prior to IDEA there were many unserved kids. We started looking and through a local unique at that time program Church for the Exceptional we found nearly 300 unserved children and adults of all races, colors and creeds. Dr. Cliff Wallace directed the church program and eventually allowed our fledgling program space to work. We began to write a grant which upon acceptance required Macon to integrate services for special education. This was into 1974. I finished at Mercer and went on to Emory grad school. My father’s company changed direction and he founded his own company moving to Atlanta area in Gwinnett County. Mom found an excellent program and John prospered. As the company grew the family made a move to Walton county and again a new program. I recall as John got older and was “working” in a sheltered workshop he received his first pay check. My mom was in tears. It was only a few cents. He was paid on amount of bird seed placed in container. John wasn’t there for the work as much as interaction and simply moving and using his hands etc. it was I think January 1996 or so I received a call at work. John has passed during the night. He has a seizure and stopped breathing. He was buried out on Bluesprings Farm on a hill which now overlooks soccer fields. For several years mom wrote her conversations with John down in poem form. Synchronicity, I never knew the word in 1970 yet looking back it has woven my life shaped and molded the warps. Each piece leading to the next. I left out pieces and people along the way to keep this story shorter. I had a student tell me my stories are boring. She immediately got back to texting on her phone. I wonder sometimes if cell phones strip the synchronistic opportunities away. No need to pay attention to reality when instantaneously you have a screen and stuff in front of you. I love technology it allows us to share or become self centered it is a matter of choice my friends. May peace be with you all this glorious day.