The time came to spend another day with the folks from the Supports for Community Living (SCL) program. Today, I’d be hanging with the guys.
Dempsey bakes goodies every weekend to take to his church to sell, the money he then uses to purchase more baking supplies for his next baking venture. He also has a reputation on Campus for being a ladies’ man. Upon introductions, I offered my hand to Dempsey to exchange a handshake, which he took and proceeded to bring it up to his mouth. Unsure of where we were going with this introduction pleasantry, one of the Direct Support Providers (DSP), Kalinn, quickly explained he was going to kiss my hand. Oh the chivalry! I thought flattered, even touched. I quietly mused that a man is a man, regardless of any physiological or mental challenges. Dempsey has a killer smile, and charm to boot; and I fell for it hook, line and sinker! I even blushed as I felt my cheeks warm up upon completion of his greeting. Slightly flustered, I smiled with red cheeks, said thank you as I feigned (or was it real?) the swoon of a woman being swept off her feet. Dempsey liked my reaction to his genteel manner.
Next I meet Jerry, or as the DSP’s call him, “Jerr Bear.” Jerry came to WFC in 1997 and has a quiet nature about him until he warms up to you, then he’s more sociable. Jerry is a handsome young man with beautiful blue eyes. With his reddish hair and beard, he reminds me of the young Kris Kringle in the children’s claymation, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Jerry is independently mobile in his electric wheelchair, cognizant and responsive to what’s going on. Jerry was a bit aloof upon first meeting me, but he did take my hand as I introduced myself to him. He seemed unimpressed when I told him I was spending the day with him.
Last but not least, I meet Mark. Mark is quiet and seems to keep to himself. He showed great patience as the DSPs, Ashley and Kalinn, prepared to load the three into the van. Mark didn’t say much to me, other than to answer “yes” or “no” questions.
The DSPs that work closely with the folks in SCL are familiar with the quirks, the personalities and the challenges of each person they serve. We all have unique personality characteristics and traits, but these may not always be obvious upon first glance. Just as we get to know our co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family members over time, so do our DSPs get to know those individuals they work with through direct experience, trial and error, and wisdom shared by others who’ve been around for a long time. Whether it’s a personality characteristic, such as needing consistency, or nutritional requirements, or their communication methods, the DSPs are responsible for the well-being and quality of life for those to whom they are assigned. I will come to recognize this importance during my time with Dempsey, Mark and Jerry.
The day’s agenda includes a trip to the Owensboro’s Science and History Museum, then lunch. Our first challenge of the day is finding a handicapped parking space in downtown Owensboro. We settled for a spot near a parking garage across from the River Park Center where we could unload everyone safely onto a sidewalk. The sidewalk was busy, and it was interesting to watch people move by us. Granted, we took up a lot of room – think about it, three men in wheelchairs, a van ramp that extends out approximately four feet, and three women. We created a bit of a maze for some pedestrians, and we all apologized or said “excuse us” as people maneuvered through our group. Thankfully, most graciously walked by us with nods or a smile.
Parked. Unloaded. Organized. We were now ready to head to the museum which involved a half block walk and crossing a busy one-way street. I wasn’t sure about how this would go and felt a little nervous as we headed that way.
In the Next Blog Entry: “We’re going too slow! We’re not going to make it! Crap, the crosswalk warning is flashing! At this point, we’re in the middle of the street . . . ”
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