A family’s love for Auntie Cindy

For Mike Watson, who recently joined the CLBC Board of Directors, the desire to be involved and give back is inspired by a very important person in his life: his sister Cindy.

Growing up

Mike, Cindy and their two other siblings spent their younger years in Kimberly and Trail.

“Those were the days of institutionalization. The doctors were very clear with my parents that Cindy should be put in an institution from birth to be visited on weekends,” says Mike. “That was a non-starter with my parents. That wasn’t going to happen. She was going to be raised at home and in the community. In Trail, Cindy was the first student with Down syndrome to be mainstreamed into the high school system and what a thing it was.”

While Mike acknowledges there were challenges along the way, there were also indelible moments that still stick with him. He fondly remembers Cindy’s high school graduation in 1983 when the entire auditorium rose to its feet to applaud as she crossed the stage.  “It was one of those moments in life that you can’t replicate. Absolutely amazing.”

Cindy moved back to Vancouver in the late 1990s with their parents and moved into independent living at the time. Now 53, Cindy has a caregiver who lives with her and provides support in the evenings.

Mike credits family and friends, as well as service providers and CLBC supports for helping to create the life that Cindy lives today.

“From being told she would never be able to read, write or carry on in a social setting, she now reads, writes, she texts the family, the extended family and her friends. Cindy lives a very fulfilled life with more social graces than most of my friends. She is a focal point for many people she knows in her community. For me, I have this wonderful human being in my life that I love, and whom my wife and kids love. Auntie Cindy is like the queen in the family.”

Sibling experience

Cindy was the centre of attention when she got to meet Vancouver Canucks players and staff.

Being a brother to Cindy has influenced Mike in many ways, and one of the most significant is being a grounding presence and reminding him what’s important in life.

“She simplifies the complex, she finds a way to see through the noise and connect at a human level more so than anyone I’ve met,” says Mike “She doesn’t care what clothes you wear, what car you drive, what watch you have on your wrist. She only cares that you’re listening to her and she’s hearing you, and that’s it.”

He shares the story of attending a Canucks game with Cindy while coping with his own personal stresses and tribulations. “We were coming home in the car, and I asked Cindy what was the best part of the game. The goal? The power play? The first period? Trevor Linden walking by? Her answer in the car will always stick with me. She leaned across and put her head on my shoulder and said, ‘being with you’.”

Role on the board

When the opportunity arose to join CLBC’s Board of Directors, there wasn’t a doubt in Mike’s mind, “Never has an opportunity in life come up that I did not have to ponder. I said ‘Yes, thank you’ without hesitation.”

Mike brings to his role on the board a family perspective he’s gained through a lifetime of experience. “Being Cindy’s brother educates and informs my perspective on the issues that are raised at the board table. When we talk about the complexity of care, I have a face to put in front of that. When we talk about the number of people CLBC serves, that’s not just a number. Those are thousands of individuals who are incredible and have the ability to make a huge impact in our world if we embrace them and engage with them and their families in the right way.”

Mike shares a final message of appreciation for the many people involved in community living and in creating inclusive communities across the province, “If there’s one real message, it’s a thank you to everyone involved in people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. The fulfilment you can bring to the people you support and engage with, and that they can bring to the extended community, is unbelievable.”


CLBC Board of Directors

Learn more about the work of CLBC’s Board of Directors here, including recent visits to local communities including Prince George and Vernon to learn first-hand from the experiences of individuals, families and service providers.

 

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