Vicki Cook and Lee Detzel

Recorded October 23, 2019 Archived October 23, 2019 40:28 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019307


Vicki Lee Cook (69) and her daughter Lee Anne Dretzel (41) discuss the intricacies of their family. They talk about Lee Anne's brother, Jim, who was born with Down Syndrome, and the ways in which Vicki grew and learned as a parent from having a child with special needs.

Subject Log / Time Code

L.A. asks Vicki about her brother Jim and having him at age 18
V's doctor told her that her son Jim had Down Syndrome. She was young and it was in the 1960s.
V says the doctor told her to take Jim home and treat him like a normal child. Jim weighed 6lbs 4 oz.
V points out the high mortality rate for Down Syndrome, and that level of care for special needs children was very low. They were not well taken care of.
Both note Jims nickname is "the possum."
L.A. asks V how parenting has changed her. V responds by saying she was hot tempered, not patient, pretty bashful.
V has learned patience from all three kids, especially Jim.
V says raising children isn't for the weak or the meek.
L.A was a premature baby at 2 months early.
V went into labor after a root canal.
Doctors performed the Apgar test on L.A. for premature babies. V got to bring her home when she was 4lbs 3oz.
L.A. thanks V for keeping Jim.
V talks about how her older brother Michael tried to get by on his looks. L.A. points out he still does that.
Both tell the story of Jim being unsafe with a car during shop class. Jim grabbed windshield wipers to hold on, put a car in neutral, and hit a tree.
V remembers the shop teacher saying he was afraid of Jim.
V talks about the Time Out Box at Lamar school, Jim's school for special needs kids.
V explains that San Antonio officials helped investigate the box and helped get rid of it.
L.A. remarks that V taught all her kids how to be loud.


  • Vicki Cook (b. 1950)
  • Lee Detzel (b. 1978)

Recording Location

Dallas Public Library: North Oak Cliff Branch


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00:09 My name is Leon. I'm 41 years old. Today is Wednesday, October 23rd 2019 and we're in Dallas, Texas today. I'm interviewing my mom Vicky.

00:23 01 interviewing Dicky who is my mom

00:27 At my name is Vicki cook. I am 69 years old today's date is Wednesday, October 23rd in Dallas, Texas. And my daughter Leanne is interviewing me.

00:40 Tell Mom I brought you here today because being your baby and it's true. I don't think I know a lot about the story of my oldest brother Jim. Okay, so can you tell me a little bit about what was going on in your life? What were you doing when you found out you were pregnant with him? I'm going to start the game Pregnant part. I was 18. I had been on birth control pills for 2 years because of problems and I got married and 6 weeks later. I developed a very bad blood clot in my leg. And so they told me that I needed to go off the pill and I needed to use a prophylactic. Well the problem with that was I was very mature at 18 and I did not know what that word meant. The doctor didn't tell you what it was. He didn't

01:40 Show me what that meant and I guess he just assumed that I would know what that man. So anyway.

01:47 Unable to say I got pregnant with him and had a very bad pregnancy with him while you were still in high school graduation, and my dad had died in May before that and I graduated the end of May.

02:08 And so then David and I had dated for a year and then we got married. So then I'm back then that was not that unusual for you to do that. That was a pretty commonplace thing.

02:23 So anyway terrible pregnancy with Jim.

02:27 But nothing that you know, nothing that other than I lost a ton of weight loss and lots of morning sickness. And so I was two weeks past due and anyway just went into childbirth, you know, when into the birthing process in the middle of the night, of course, you always do as well.

02:50 When in the middle of the night and had, you know, pretty easy delivery, I guess, you know, so when I woke up I asked to see Jim and I wouldn't bring him to me.

03:07 So I said I really want to see him.

03:13 So they said your doctor needs to talk to you.

03:18 Okay, was anybody there with you know, I was I was right by your voice. I probably at work, you know, I don't know following work and David worked and my mom in law on parking lot before 10?

03:35 They said your doctor needs to talk to you.

03:39 So

03:44 That's why I prefer here.

03:47 To the doctor came into your room where you were he did very wonder I had a wonderful doctor.

03:55 He was acting My Obgyn was there he was dr. Sparkman and he came into the room and sit down. He said we'll pick it. We need to talk.

04:05 And I said, okay at that point. I'm not sure what's going on with your son and he said he has Down syndrome.

04:21 I know it's like I am asking if I don't know what that is. I mean I had a cousin that had him handicapped, you know, but it was you know, Wanda had your choice been handicapped on have never known anything any different and I never been around anybody down. So I never knew anybody Downs never been around anybody down sandgorse. I Was Eighteen just barely 18 in this is the sixties and that was in the sixties. Actually I had

04:50 Yes, I know. I was 19 just turned 19 so

04:56 That's not true. I was 18 or 19 anyway, so he told me about him and he's he told me that down syndrome meant that he was mentally retarded and physically handicapped and that it was going to be it was going to be a struggle and that a lot of babies didn't make it and that the lifespan at that point. Now this is changed to today but at that point was about 20 years. They usually leave at 20 years old and he said that every year of that a certain percentage of the babies die.

05:38 You know that about 25% each year, you know that the babies that's going down syndrome children die and that's from heart problems and lung problems and just developmental problems. You know, I'm right. So anyway,

05:55 So I asked him I said, you know, I knew he had kids cuz he works at the pictures all over his office, you know, so I asked him if his so if if this were your child, what would you do and I want what you do?

06:11 And he told me he said

06:29 I'm taking home and treat him like a normal town. It's what he said to me take him home and treat him like a normal job. And that's what I would do if he said the best that you can do it.

06:41 And I said, okay sound they brought gym. And after I talk to dr. Sparkman in Brockton Fried Chicken in and out.

06:52 He was cute. He was a little cutie. He weighs 6 lb and 4 oz.

06:59 Diana although I could tell you no lies counted as fingers and I counted his toes and all those were there and you know everything I knew he looked different than other baby is dead. But you know, he still was a cutie and I just knew at that point that I I had somebody special that I had to take care of.

07:23 So

07:25 So I'm curious what your grandma think about that tomorrow. They were still on the farm and Mary said they were all on the farm work and doing something down there when I went to him this morning and later. They told me they sent Mary said.

07:49 I hope Becky doesn't have a Down Syndrome baby. Grandma said that she said that yeah, so, I don't know when I never been around anybody down.

08:04 I don't know why Mary would say that Mom was.

08:10 Helpful

08:11 You know, she was she was helpful in pretty accepting and I had several people tell me mom was not one of them, but I did have several people tell me that Jim needed to be put in a home that there was no point in taking him home.

08:29 To put him in a home

08:32 And I wouldn't have in it.

08:35 Not going to happen, you know, and so anyway, I was that something that a lot of people did a lot of people do that back then and I've read since and that's the mortality rate is so high in downtown was so high and Downs children back then because they were putting homes and they were not well taken care of and advanced babies are very as you know, we had to work with you.

09:00 Very affectionate. Yeah, you know the a very affectionate yet and they're very trusting and all that kind of stuff. And so you have to read that I said cuz I don't want to spend that much better. Man's I think the oldest announce person today is 76. Oh wow, and the average lifespan is in their sixties. Okay, and then I also read to that and downs people once they hit 50 they start aging faster now and then we seen that with Jen and we've seen that damn you. Anyway, that's how we got the possum. So you were Jim was your only child for how long Jim was Sam was pregnant.

09:53 Should have years later with Michael? Okay. Yeah, Michael was one of those surprise things but not I knew the day I got pregnant usual. It was kind of like you see on TV on those love stories and they're making love and all the sudden this these two trains Collide and I just got pregnant. Well, that's what happened put me on with Michael and

10:22 Anyway, Michael Wolff cell Michael.

10:26 Almost ran a half years apart. Okay, and then you came along and 45 years later. Yeah. Yeah, all of you were tough. Love. You just said we weren't going to cut you any since he had a terrible time with feeding, which the harder it is for babies to feed. Usually the IQ. There's metal Lower Merion others. It's a little bit low and Downs children have huge thick tongues and they have a big Tavern in the top of their mouths and

11:13 Make some very difficult to suck a bottle. And so anyway, this is Jim just hates oatmeal to this day, but I hate a lot of oatmeal because I can mix I can mix pureed apples in it and make it slimy enough that it wouldn't stick to the top of his mouth. So you are young 18 and you had Jim and we're 50 years later. How has being a parent changed you?

11:43 Just all three kids. Just how are you want to talk about it?

11:52 Well, the thing I think about with me is when I was growing up. I was hot-tempered.

12:00 I was not patient.

12:03 At all, I was actually with all that I was pretty bashful. You know, I couldn't put my own voice out there very much. You don't say this is what I like, That's what I don't like. I had an authority thing where you listen to the authority figure in your life Mom Dad boss. Anybody older than you was an authority figure and whether you agreed with Mr. Didn't agree with them you did whatever it was that they said for you to do. They think when the doctor told you to take Jim home that carried a lot of weight for you it did but not I don't

12:49 I know because he was the doctor it did.

12:54 I trusted him. I trusted him to give me good advice and giving him up was not an option for me.

13:06 And whatever that led me to that's what it led me to now the things that changed I feel like I'm more patient now. I'm not an extremely patient person know you're not I'm not and I know that about me but I'm a lot more patient than I used to be. My temper has Jim has taught me Jim. Well, all three of you taught me has taught me a lot of patience has test kind of taking the temper taking the hot out of the temporary, you know, I still get aggravated every once in awhile, but I very seldom ever just get mad over this the slightest thing. Yeah. I feel like you trying to channel doll that.

13:52 Into

13:55 Like when Jim got into school and you had to always.

14:01 Speak up for him. Yes very much time and like we can talk about some of the things that you did but you were such an advocate for him. So I wonder if sort of all that intense energy that you had he should have found a new place to put it.

14:19 I think

14:21 I was strong a strong person to begin with. I think that sometimes it's easier to advocate for others than it is for yourself.

14:32 And I think when it's your child, I think it definitely is a lot easier to advocate for your child. Could you not have any mystery in your kids know that I'm not going to do that, you know, and so I think I did I did channel that into that. It really helped me break out of my shell really help me to ask for the things that he needed that I needed him to have and took on some pretty big folks to get that and

15:06 I always say I'm proud of myself, you know, I don't want to say that it's I feel grateful that I found that inner strength and use it the way I did.

15:19 Sound but raising our children is definitely not for the weak or the Meg come along and then Michael came along and he had florek stenosis. I don't know if you know one for that, but he had to lyrics analysis and he is instead of that's a valve that goes from your stomach into your intestines and instead of

15:47 Opening and closing, you know, the pH of the stomach gets to be a certain level and then then that valve opens and everything goes on down while his never closed right and so anything and everything that he ate my rights and apparently caused a lot of pain cuz he screamed day and night he screamed every picture you see of Michael when he was young. He was crying and he scream scream scream scream scream now he developed it's worth developing normally along the way he develop just fine.

16:22 And at one year they're going to do surgery and then they decided that you know something magically.

16:30 Happened. I don't know what it was. You know, it just it resolved itself and he did not have to have surgery for that one. Then. I came along. Oh my goodness, and then you came along and how early was I born you were born two months early and I you were born in the 28th week.

16:55 Well, I'm going to tell the story of what why you think you went into labor with me. Okay, but you said that you are because you have a root canal the night for the day, but yes, yeah, I did. Yeah, I had had a root canal.

17:17 I had some problems along why I've been in the hospital and I had some bleeding had lots of lots of morning sickness. I was on 8th and Benedictine a day to is that a painkiller? It's a pill that they give you for nausea when you were pregnant, okay to get to know if you end up in trouble and I had I had had dental work the day before.

17:46 And no exit had it that morning. Oh, no, I had a table for me before I did the day before and they had done a root canal and I had checked with my doctor is everything. Okay. Can I do this? Yeah, that's fine. So they hit the dock with the dentist when he got in there. He said, you know, there's a little place over here and tell you one anyway.

18:16 He said there's another place over here and save a half of your mouth is going to be numb and I'm you know, you're so I remember this part. Yeah, and I said, are you sure are you sure he said? Yeah, he's I said, okay.

18:29 I get home now. It's numb and I'm sitting on the couch and I'm reading a book.

18:36 And I'm 7 months pregnant isn't one and my water breaks.

18:43 And so I called the doctor's office that they stole money and I think my mother had book.

18:50 And I kept hanging up on me. Yeah, and I'm calling back is Mickey supplement. I thought we were playing a joke on them or something. And finally I said you have got to listen to me. You've got to listen to me because I'm telling you that my want that I've had some dental work and my mouth is numb and I can't talk and I'm only 7 months, you know, and my water has broken. Well, you probably just peed on yourself. No, that's not what happened. So I call Mom.

19:24 And she came and got me cuz I called you understood me so she came and got me and drove me to the doctor's office and course your dad was out of town. You know, he'd have to be out of town on all this was going on. So he's out of town.

19:37 And anyway, we get over to the doctor's office and they said yeah. Yeah your water is working but your cervix is closed and but we're sure now that this is happened that you're going to go into labor and I said I'm going to tell you right now I am not going into labor that is not happening. I've done this twice before and I am telling you there's nothing this time that is like it was last time nothing. So how long until I was born after that. We're on that was about 11 in the morning and they put me in the hospital.

20:14 Waiting for that magical labor to start and your dad got in about 10:30 or 11 and so about 11 midnight Midnight 11:00, they came in and they said we're going to do a C-section in the morning because you have no signs of labor.

20:32 So anyway the next morning, they took me down which I was scared to death, but they took me down and I was awake. I don't know if you knew that when they did the C-section I had asked to be awake and just you never know, you know, you're still so little and so I asked if you're white and they did that.

20:56 And I got to see you.

20:59 When you were born, I got to see you and you can't they brought you around and you tiny ugly. Oh my goodness. You were so tiny and you were screaming. Heaven and they brought you around and you grabbed hold my little finger and you clinched on to it. I mean almost like a buys. It was just like you were holding on my finger and you were not letting me go and the problem was that you didn't have any choice, you know, so they did the apgar score on you and which was not very good and which is where they yeah, you know what they having the baby and so you had your lungs are not developed. And so anyway, they I took you on the ICU.

21:49 And you and I realize I was in the hospital 10 days and you were in the hospital a month and you've actually wait for pounds in 5 ounces at bars and I got to bring you home when you weighed 4 pounds in 3, oz because you had been there a month and doing well and they had the city of Memphis actually send out o a welfare person that checked most babies in Memphis were born to poor black women most premature babies and they came to check to make sure the house was in order for you to come home. And once that was all done they said

22:31 You can go home. Yeah.

22:35 So it sounds like you didn't have any normal normal births or none of us, like follow the book know and you know that I don't think in today's life any book. We are very different and very different children. Yeah. Yeah, I went and I got to tell you I can go back into the before you were born out. And if you knew this either Michael was your Advocate like always the one that you wanted you to be. I want a baby sister on my baby sister and my baby sister. Are you sure we can't get a dog and a cat. Are you sure know, I want a baby sister and I read a book, you know, we do this research has something and you and I both do we do all this research and there was a book called how to determine the sex of your child.

23:35 And it tells all the ways and you know hot showers eat this don't eat that have sex and don't have it done. You know, and so anyway, I followed the book on how to determine the sex of your child because he was hell-bent on you being a girl so I know if it worked or if it was just the fifty-fifty odds or what? Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. I'm proud of you for advocating for all of us and now when it done it any other way.

24:12 You know, I didn't know any different and I'm just so glad that you kept him. Thank you and having him as my brother has really changed my life.

24:26 Colobus all of us

24:29 It gives you the best stories.

24:34 Frustrates you

24:44 When Jim, you know, I always a big Montessori person and finally you tell my mom they're not going to the Montessori school with my kids.

24:56 I credit the Montessori method for a lot of gems success because Maria Montessori was a big believer in that children build their own Futures heal their own adult if you will and that we are just here as guides. We are guys were children and that children are going to be who they're going to be. You know, when all she can do is try to guide them in in a good path. Not a bad path. And so I hope that's what I did. You know, I know it's none of my methods Pro.

25:35 I think I was a strict parent.

25:40 I don't know say Michael thinks I was terribly well. I've heard from Michael that you are an absolute bitch. I mean he's at he is told us that over and over. I don't know what you did to him. But yeah, I didn't see that song. Well Michael is difficult because you know, Michael was cute Michael so cute when you catching the football team and I do my God, you know, and the deal is that Michael tries to get bottom lights looks he still does that he still does that and I love him. I mean I do I love him dearly but you know, I just he's just just teaches Michael, you know, he's been fairly successful. The kids are really his three kids are really worried a lot about you know, because things were

26:32 Yeah, you know very different there and I really worried about the three kids, but they have all really turned out. Well, you know, I think he might think she were strict because

26:44 Jim kind of got away with things always got to eat whatever he wanted to eat boys got to pick the TV shows that we watched on TV after school, and I don't know I could see Mike's perspective on that.

27:02 I don't know. I don't know. I don't know you are a very strict parent with me. No. No, I don't think so. No, I was crazy about you and I'm crazy about you. I mean, you know, you'll just like my little girl. I thought you were just tired of being a parent by the time you got to me know. I still be your parent today. If you can move in I'd let you move in. I'm sure I'm sure someone would have that if we could just move in with Grandma. That would make her whole life. Yeah, that's fun to learn about them and learn about them. But I remember like I'll tell you one of my early memories of Jim so help me figure out when this happened. Okay. Remember when we used to live across the street from the high school? Yes. I remember that and was it that day that you told us all that he had.

28:02 Try to drive the car in shop class is worse than that. What happened? I remember I remember so we lived where we at the bottom of the hill. We were there was a big Valley there was a panther Canyon yeah and of it and there was any way to get mainstreamed into the high school. And so that man said he thought a regular classes.

28:38 So apparently there was no training no discussion. No with the teachers on what mainstreaming means and what who what how these kids are all like I said, so anyway Jones in shop class and the teacher tells him.

28:57 2 to sweep underneath a car

29:03 So anyway, Jim antigen got a lot of common sense anyway, so he gets he tries to get his room under the car and he can't get all the dirt out from underneath the car. And so then he gets in the car.

29:18 And somehow gets it into neutral.

29:23 And then it gets out of the car.

29:26 And then he pushes it out of the shop backwards and he is hanging onto the windshield wipers as it goes down the hill and he hits a tree with him still hanging on to the windshield wipers of the car. Do you think he thought he could stop the car? I think he thought I could stop the car. Yeah, you didn't he decided to grab on whatever you can grab onto. I don't know why you just didn't let it go but it went right out of the shop right down. Thank you didn't hidden cars. Yeah. I don't know how that happened, but it didn't hit in cars, but it did go down to the bottom of the hill and hits the tree.

30:04 Yeah, so what tell me about that call from the school what happened when I get didn't actually happen. That was a really long time. I really lost it. Jim kept asking me for a note to get back on the bus. He needed to know to get on the bus at the gym. You don't need to know I need another on the bus. So finally I decided to go up there to the high school and find out what was going on. So I go walk away. Is he going to school during this time? Like every day you were taking him to he was, he was going to Lamar and then the bus took him from Lamar to the high school. So you went in the afternoon, see, how do you okay?

30:47 So many why I went up there expecting him cuz he was in the shop class in the afternoons and I expected him to be there. Well, he wasn't there. So, where is he? Well, he's not allowed to come back. But why is he not allowed to come back because of the accident what accident and so then once I found out what had happened I didn't have a screaming fit.

31:19 But I said I demanded that there be a meeting. I wanted to talk to the principal. I want to talk to the teachers involved. I want to talk to whoever was going to listen to me because I had something to say and anyway the shop teacher ended up telling me which I just wanted to.

31:38 Do bad things to him. He told me that he was afraid of Jim.

31:44 And that he didn't know that if he corrected him that he might not take a screwdriver and try to hurt him or something. He said that you said that to me.

31:53 And I'm like Jim is mentally retarded. Jim is not mentally challenged. Mentally. He does not have a mental illness, right? You know, he does not have a violent bone in his body. And I said if you had corrected him in anyway, then he probably would have cried right that would be the only thing that he would have done. He would have cried because you corrected him and I said, so that's that's what you know, if it was I asked do you know you have a whole plan that you have to write out for what they're going to do and what they're not going to do. So anyway that they asked me they still can you ride him out a plan?

32:36 And I said, yes, I can do that. I can I can write about a plan and you then you all check from that and use it as you will and you know.

32:45 I do. Anyway, I wrote the plan we all met again and out of my whole plan. They changed one word from he

32:54 Should too he could with the only thing that I changed in the plan and after that he went back to school and

33:05 You know well and I'll bring this up. This was not related to John but just special ad.

33:14 I want no more school that had I was the president of the PTA and overwhelm our school. They had a box or wooden box and the kids this was the Marshfield was strictly for handicapped children. And so when the children didn't behave like they felt like they should behave they were put in timeout. And so this was a timeout and box where they supposed to sit on it and they went inside the Box they went inside the box and they close the door and somebody said outside so they could not get out. I had one of the parents contact me and say Jenny Jenny, I won't use her last name, but Jenny had a bruise on her vagina.

34:01 And the mother of Zeus Hispanic and she was very very upset about it. And so anyway, I did some investigation and so I went over to the school and talk to him and said, you know, Jenny's mother's come to me and this is what she said and I'd like to know what happened and so they told me that she had been misbehaving and they were trying to get her in the Box.

34:27 And it had a door knob on it and while trying to get her in the box that she hits you accidentally been hit there.

34:35 And I lost it. I just went on a rampage and demanded to see the box and you go in to tell you that I mean, hold on a second you send him to school right and did they say?

34:54 This teacher did not use the Box.

34:58 But I mean did you know about it? I did not know about it until Geneva Jenny got hurt and tell him. Can he got hurt? When did they end up breaking up that school? Well,

35:10 What ended up happening because I was appalled. Yeah, and so appalling we went I got with four three other parents three other Mama's and we went to the school board about it. And we went to everybody that we could would talk to this week Aries signs in New Braunfels about the abuse that was going on over that school and we got served cease-and-desist orders because the school said that you know, things were really we were

35:43 Making too much of a raucous. And so finally when I got my season two other parents backed out when the cease-and-desist orders were served.

35:52 And I honest him anonymously contacted the TV station in San Antonio and told them the story and they investigated wow, and that came up and the box was eliminated.

36:09 And the teacher was fired the poor ate that's one regret I have in life is supported because now that I weigh almost as much as she was at that time. I said this really have a 200 pound lady was sitting in front of the door. Well guess what it is. And so and that was on TV

36:31 Anyway, she told me later that she been very varus when that happened. Then I really felt bad about saying that on TV matter. But anyway.

36:41 What really hacked me off about that whole deal was that?

36:49 The principal of the school was promoted.

36:52 Wow, that's what really? I thought I held her more accountable then, you know the teachers and the teacher says we're scared for their jobs. They weren't going to say very much, you know about anyting there been other incidents when you got investigating there was Jenny there was a little boy that had been slapped getting on about you was in a wheelchair and he reached at the lady had long hair and he reached out and pulled her hair and she slapped him and there were just

37:27 Just things going on there that should not have been going on there. But anyway, they did not disband the school, but they did five the teacher and they moved the teacher's aide and then the principal was promoted.

37:39 Well, thank you for doing that. Still makes me just makes me mad. I never happened. It was awful in there. It was hot there was defecation in there. There was vomit in there. There was everything in that box. You could think of you know, and these poor kids, you know.

38:06 Anyway what I think about when I think about like your whole story of being a mom.

38:16 It's what you said before might take him home and treat him like a regular person.

38:21 And can you remove all the way to Texas and you find out that that's happened at that other school for that other child? Yeah, I just that.

38:33 And every kid is a person every kid is a person and it doesn't matter if they have Down syndrome or cerebral palsy and are any of the other terrible? Yeah, which am I feel very fortunate Down syndrome. All the handicaps has I think probably easier ones to deal with you know, and just taught me a lot you all taught me a lot, you know, a lot of patients, you know, a lot of soul-searching and am I doing the right thing for the right reasons and always make sure that with all three of you that nobody ever took advantage of you or abused you or you know, you know what I think what you taught us always to be very loud.

39:12 I do. I mean, we're all very vocal about what we want is good. My name goes good with that. We didn't know that we were probably watching you do it the whole time. They very vocal, you know, and you know the right thing when you're trying to do the right thing and then it always turns out like it's supposed to and you know what the right thing is. The right thing is when you're trying to do the right thing at usually always turns out but you have to ask for what you want and you know how to truly be sincere and doing it for the right motives.

39:47 Well, thank you. And well, thank you. I didn't mean to get so emotional.

39:51 Hey, we just are we are at kitties in my eyes. Don't cry very easily, but I'll cry right along with them. But I love you. I love you, too. Thank you.

40:06 I'm so cold.

40:23 Fahrenheit