The simple life of Thurman T. Howard
By Darlene S. Brown
I was born in 1957, a time when the world was changing, a new era was beginning. My Mama was born in 1933, a time when life was hard, there were few jobs, little money and most families had many mouths to feed. It inspired me so much to hear the stories of her family’s struggles and how they faced everyday trial and tribulation.
My Mama’s brother, Thurman T. Howard, was born in 1935 on a cold December morning. Mama was young, but the older siblings remember that day so well. In those days babies were born at home, with no prenatal care, so if there were any difficulties with the birth the child would die or be born with birth defects.
Thurman’s birth was very difficult with terrible complications. The hometown doctor was called because of the condition that both Thurman and my Grandma were in. The doctor examined Thurman’s still body for normal reactions that a newborn shows, but there was nothing. The doctor told the family the devastating news that their son and brother had “bled at the brain” during birth and would never have a normal life. This was sad news for my grandparents, but they loved their baby son and would care for him the best way they could.
Years passed and Thurman grew up with the mental capacity of a baby. My Mama and aunts taught Thurman to walk with their help and to speak small words if he needed something. Other children didn’t understand Thurman and would laugh at him because of the way he walked and talked. In his simple world, he thought they were playing with him, but Mama knew they were making fun of him and she would always chase them away.
Thurman lived at home for 16 years, but it became very difficult to care for him, so my grandparents chose to place him in Caswell Center in Kinston. After a time, not having the one-on-one care he had at home, he stopped walking and talking. I remember going to visit him when I was a child, and he loved to see us. That made me smile.
Thurman lived in Caswell Center until he died at 62. The funeral was held at Caswell because this was his home. Family and other patients attended the service. Even the preacher was mentally challenged but was able to deliver a beautiful sermon.
Thurman lived a simple life. He was loved and admired by those who knew him. I respected him with all my heart and learned at an early age never to look down on someone with mental disabilities.