Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Erick Simpson 1956-2011

Erick, Jimmy, and Ron in 1956
Dear JJ,

Today I learned that my brother died - Erick.

Erick was born severely mentally retarded. So much so that he was institutionalized from about age six months.  He was 15 months older than me.  The difficulty of having such a child was very rough on my parents, and I cannot imagine the heartbreaking decision they made to have him go into an institution.

For a while he was in Oregon, because Alaska didn't have facilities to take care of these children.  Every year we would go to Oregon and visit with him.  To this day I remember playing with him, at my grandparents house in Portland (they gave him a pass).  Erick couldn't communicate, but he enjoyed the company, and was a gentle person.

Eventually Alaska developed the facilities for him, and in the 70's he was moved to Valdez, Alaska where he would spend the rest of his life.  Physically he was short, about 5 foot 1 inch, and he weighed about 110 pounds.  He loved "junk" food, especially ice cream (the genetic trait of a Simpson).  He never required any medication for behavior, was always friendly, enjoyed dancing.

When I was a boy, my older brothers Jimmy and Ron were 6 and 8 years older than me.  So I didn't have someone to play with.  I would remember telling my parents that I wished that Erick was normal so he could be the brother I could play with.  I cannot tell you the many times in my life that I thought that same thought - how I wished he was normal, and what would it be like to have that brother that would be close to me in age.

Apparently Erick did know two words: "Mommy" and "Terry." That he knew my name gives me great pleasure. That I had not seen him in years makes me feel badly, even though he would not have recognized me, known me, or remembered me.

There is only one thing that fills that empty space in my heart- and that is your smile.  I am sorry that there are two uncles you will never meet - -Erick and Jimmy.