Monday, October 18, 2010

My Uncle Roy

This is a photo of my Uncle Roy with a duck; he loved animals and had a special connection with them I always thought. He was a mysterious person in my girlhood. By the time he registered on my consciousness, I was seven and he was a grown man and traditions regarding his treatment in my grandma's household had solidified. Something was "wrong" with him, I gathered, and always had been and no one wanted to talk about it. He was mostly left alone, not spoken to and he didn't speak to any one. But I was drawn to him and curious and guilty as I grew older over the way he was excluded from the family and the community.

But it was a different time back in the hills of West Virginia. There were no diagnostic tests to determine where he placed on the autism spectrum (if that was his problem), there were no special tutors, no medication, no enlightened counselors and teachers to encourage inclusion in the classroom and at home. So my family made do and he stayed home and muttered to himself in front of the fire and when he walked the hills. Sometimes he brought me horehound candy and gum from his treks to a small store in the next town. And I took it and said nothing and so did he.

Anyway, I've written a book Mountain Girl that fictionalizes this situation and the girl in the story does connect with her uncle and reconnects him with his family and community. Wish I'd been able to do that but writing the book was cathartic and consoled me somewhat.

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