Holly Haze Finds Joy in Caretaking

January 28, 2020
Holly and Jimmy

I come from a large family. I am the youngest of eight. My father died when I was 11 months old. My mom had her hands full with five kids. The next oldest sibling is my brother Jimmy who is mentally handicapped. Jimmy did not get enough oxygen at birth and it damaged his brain. I say damaged, but I would say Jimmy is the least damaged person I know. He has no stress. He knows no hatred. You cannot help but smile when you see Jimmy. He does not speak many words. He knows very few. He does, however, know sadness.

Holly & Brother Jimmy

When my father was alive, he would come home from work at the same time every evening and before dinner, he would play with Jimmy until dinner was ready. Jimmy was five years old when our father died. After his death, Jimmy would cry at around the same time my dad used to come home from work. He knew that something was missing. In spite of all this, mom did everything to make his life joyful. When I was two years old, my mom met a widower with three kids. She married Fred, my stepfather, and we became a family of eight. Jimmy lived with us until he was about eight years old. She decided to find a home for him after he became a little bit too strong to handle. He started to hurt me, not on purpose, but he was just getting too big and strong. My mom made sure we visited Jimmy all the time. I remember going with her to visit him every other weekend for my entire life. When I went off to college, I still went to visit him periodically. He has been at the same facility for over 40 years. He has loved all of his teachers and caregivers. Although my mother missed him, she knew she had found the perfect place for him. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it obviously became a little more difficult for her to visit Jimmy. We all would take turns driving her down there, and their bond was evident until the very end. Even in her final years, when she barely remembered everything, she would light up when he would walk into a room. She would say there’s my Jimmy. She oftentimes said that he was her easiest child!

He never had a cavity, was never sick, and she always knew he was in good hands and safe. The director of his facility was so kind that they would drive Jimmy up to see my mother when she was in the memory care unit. They did this many times before she died. He was the only one she recognized in her final days. I have never witnessed a love or a bond so precious in my lifetime and I probably never will again. On one of my last visits before my mother died, I promised her that I would do whatever it takes to go visit Jimmy and take care of him as she would have. I have honored that promise. It is one of the hardest things to do as he asks for mom each visit, but it is the most wonderful thing I do as well. He has even recently started saying my name, which I have waited for my entire life!! Having a mentally disabled brother has taught me so much about compassion and patience. Having James Anthony as my brother has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has truly been my privilege to visit him, love him, and honor my mother.

Holly & Jimmy