That's a pretty explicit title, but I did it for googlers. When Jerry was born, I would have loved to find out about other Down Syndrome folks and what their lives are like. So, if you are new to Downs and doing a little research, or asking the question, "do people with Down Syndrome get married?" - they do.
Jerry made a little speech at the wedding reception saying "I was afraid that I would be alone all of my life, but I met you. And now we are married and will live together for the rest of our lives." (Rough quote, I can't remember exactly). He beautifully stated what I had feared always, that he would be alone. I have great joy knowing he will not be lonely traveling through this life.
My brother lived with my parents for 22 years, until they died. At that point, he came to live with me, his only sister 10 years older, and my family. After a few years while we went away on vacation Jerry went to a nearby group home. He was not happy to stay while we went away, but my husband and our two daughters were in need of a break. (Later we had another son and daughter, pictured above in the wedding portrait).
It is not easy to absorb a brother into a busy household. We had many adventures while we tried to give Jerry life skills once he came to our house. I can tell funny stories that would make you laugh until you cried. My parents had loved Jerry immensely, but spoiled him and catered to him and they did not teach him many skills he needed. We helped him learn to make his own food, have a higher amount of personal responsibility for himself, his personal hygiene and his surroundings, and generally try to be more independent. We also nagged him into eating responsibly, and as a result he lost weight and no longer needed insulin for his type II diabetes.
While living with us was good enough, Jerry did not have buddies. He would play outside with kids in the neighborhood. When Jerry moved to his group home, he suddenly had friends. They wanted to watch movies or wrestling with him, play video games, played on his Special Olympics sports teams and afterwards hung out. Many of them worked together at the sheltered workshop. They travel together (cruises, Hawaii, New England) through the travel club. Life became very full. His two week respite visit became permanent, and he has lived there for the last eleven years.
Earlier this year, we had a meeting with Jerry and his girlfriend and her family, along with their Regional Center Counselors and representatives from the home. Subject: marriage.
I confess that I went in skeptical, and didn't think that it would be in the best interests of everyone financially etc. But it turns out that it could happen, and after hashing out some of the details and concerns all parties agreed to move forward. A date was set. We did a wedding with lots of donated and homemade goods and services. The bride and groom had saved up money, and we planned accordingly. It was fun, and lovely (if I do say so myself).
Jokester - stole the bride's veil and flowers, and mugging it up for the camera
Jerry and his wife will be roommates in one of the bedrooms at the group home. They had a quick few days of honeymoon at Disneyland (a post in itself) and later this year will go on a cruise for a longer honeymoon, with their travel club and the regular chaperones.
I am sure that there will be challenges that all newlyweds have, in addition to the challenges specific to them. But my heart is full. I am happy and feel lucky that he has great friends, and now that he has love and marriage, because earlier on we didn't know that would be possible. I think my mom and dad would be mighty thrilled.
We are celebrating!