Profile: Gerald Miller
“Keep him busy or he’ll keep you busy.”
According to Joan Holthe, Gerald’s sister, this was a familiar comment in the Miller household when Gerald was young. She says he had a tendency to be a mischief maker if he was not kept busy. Joan remembers that every Saturday Gerald’s Dad would drive him into town, a trip that Gerald looked forward to with great excitement.
At the Developmental Activities Program (DAP) Gerald used to work on recycling power meters. Joan says it was the only job that Gerald liked to do there. When he passed by the meter at his own home, he’d stop to touch it because he recognized it from his work at DAP. When the meter recycling contract was discontinued, Gerald stopped working. The family joked with him about his “early retirement.”
Gerald’s Aunt, Ethel Badger, says she just treats Gerald normally. “If he doesn’t say anything to me, that’s alright.” She remembers Gerald dumping an ashtray on an uncle who was not very accepting of him. “It was Gerald’s way of retaliating, I guess.” Ethel says that over time, Gerald’s family adapted to the fact that he does not use language to communicate.”
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“I don’t even think about him not being able to. Over the years we just have coped with that and accepted that we’re not going to get an answer but we sure sometimes get action.”
Gerald attended the Child Development Centre, where he kept the teachers extremely busy watching out for what he might get himself into. One morning in class the teacher noticed that Gerald had started the day with a safety pin replacing a button in his shirt but that the pin was no longer on the shirt. She found out that Gerald had swallowed the pin. He was taken to the hospital, x- rayed and the pin was found.
At home Gerald would go to the garden and pick carrots, which he put into his pockets and socks. Ethel said that the family would get such a kick out him sitting down later in the day and pulling a carrot out of his sock to share with the dog.
Mrs. Miller’s dances were a highlight in Association life. Marilyn Rycroft, DAP worker, remembers Mrs. Miller as a kind, easygoing woman who would invite the clients from DAP to visit at her farm. They spent the day on the farm and dug her potatoes from the garden for her because she was not feeling well at the time. Marilyn noticed that Gerald used to sit as close as he could to his mother while he watched her play with the band. Gerald’s Aunt Ethel says that when Doreen practiced her music at home, Gerald enjoyed the music and would curl up by the piano to listen.
As a young boy Gerald played records for hours, but hardly ever played a song the whole way through. Instead, he would place the needle on the part he wanted to hear and repeat that until he wanted to hear something else. Johnny Cash and Stompin’ Tom Connors were his favourites.
Gerald went to live at the group home in 1995. Living at the 109 Ave residence has been very good for Gerald and he has learned a lot. The family is thankful for Myriam Uribe’s skill in dealing with him. Ethel says that Myriam is “exceptional.”
Myriam is the Supervisor at the 109th Ave group home has been working with Gerald since he came to live there She knows him as bright and capable of mischief, despite the fact that he does not verbalize his thoughts. She says he doesn’t miss much of what is going on around him, even if he doesn’t indicate that he is absorbing all the details. He often laughs at the staff and they know it. Gerald knows that Myriam’s hands hurt. When other staff leaves and Myriam is with him by herself he will go directly over to open the fridge just to challenge her because he knows that it will be difficult for her to close the door.
Doreen is now very ill and Gerald has been to visit her. His Aunt Ethel was with Gerald on a visit to his Mom. She says that Gerald pulled back the covers, inviting his mom to get up. Ethel had to tell him that his mother was sick and that she could join him when she got better. The staff is increasingly playing the role of parent because Gerald’s mother is now very ill. Myriam reassures Doreen that her son will be taken care of.
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