and above all, love. Oliver helped each of them become fully alive.
Whole. And Oliver himself, in his twisted, withered, inarticulate
body, was strangely and beautifully alive and whole himself.
Oliver was the deciding factor in whom Christopher chose
I grew up in the house where my brother was on his back in
his bed for almost 33 years, in the same corner of his room,
under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. Oliver
was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn’t have the
strength to lift his head nor the intelligence to learn anything.
Today I am an English teacher, and each time I introduce
my class to the play about Helen Keller, The Miracle Worker,
I tell my students about Oliver. One day, during my first year
teaching, a boy in the last row raised his hand and said, “Oh,
Mr. de Vinck. You mean he was a vegetable.”
I stammered for a few seconds. My family and I fed Oliver.
We changed his diapers …. We bathed Oliver. Tickled his chest
to make him laugh. Sometimes we left the radio on in his
room. We pulled the shade down over his bed in the morning
to keep the sun from burning his tender skin. We listened to
him laugh as we watched television downstairs. We listened
to him rock his arms up and down to make the bed squeak.
We listened to him cough in the middle of the night.
“Well, I guess you could call him a vegetable. I called him
Oliver, my brother. You would have liked him.”
…. Oliver still remains the weakest, most helpless human
being I ever met, and yet he was one of the most powerful hu-
man beings I ever met. He could do absolutely nothing except
breathe, sleep, eat, and yet he was responsible for action, love,
courage, insight …. When I was in my early 20s, I met a girl and
fell in love. After a few months I brought her home to meet
my family. When my mother went to the kitchen to prepare
dinner, I asked the girl, “Would you like to see Oliver?” for I
had told her about my brother. “No,” she answered.
FAMIL Y FORCE 5
ALL SONS & DAUGHTERS
THE ROYAL ROYAL
July 19 & 20, 2013
The Flats at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
TENTH AVENUE NORTH