Friday, April 27, 2012

The Campus Cool Cat Be-Bop

Volunteer groups generously share their time, energy and talents with the people of Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC).  For example, local church groups from differing denominations come two or more Sundays a month to offer Sunday worship service in the Young Building.  One young group of children from Hastings Early Learning School on Tamarack Road volunteered to collect Christmas gifts for residents living in our Centre Pointe Cottages. This effort means a great deal for those who have families living out of state or who have no family at all. The Choir from Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church came to perform their Cantata.  After the holidays were over, I wondered if all the generosity would end, but thankfully, it seems to get better and better!

In January, many smiles and great fun was enjoyed thanks to Dr. Diane Earle and her Kentucky Wesleyan College (KWC) History of Rock and Roll class students who hosted a “Sock Hop.”  When I learned of this group’s scheduled visit, I scratched my head, as usual, in skepticism.  Will those in attendance watch these students dance or will they dance themselves?  I’m not na├»ve; I’ve seen movies in which a woman dances with her man in a wheelchair gracefully around a dance floor.  I also knew that where there’s a will there’s a way, so I never thought it was impossible.  I just wondered how this event would be handled, what the students would do, and how our folks would participate.  As always, the people we serve at Wendell Foster’s Campus never cease to amaze me, and I just LOVE that about them!

Dr. Earle and her students gathered before their audience to discuss famous historical dances that reflect the history of rock and roll, including the Twist, the LocoMotion, and the Limbo.  The Sock Hop opened with a universal favorite, “Y-M-C-A”.  When the music started, several WFC folks became excited, obviously a favorite among this crowd!  As the chorus began, Campus Peeps motioned, if not succinctly, the spelling of the song title’s letters.  I got a kick watching them get into the song as they expended their best effort.  “Perfection” is relative, anyway.  The KWC students next demonstrated how to do the Twist, and soon, we were rocking to Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”  Again, a crowd pleaser, so much so that Wayne stood from his wheelchair to do the Twist!  I had no idea he could stand up! With a little support from his Direct Support Provider (DSP), Wayne did Chubby proud!  But the fun was only getting started.

The Limbo was explained: you know, a pole horizontally held by two people at each end while someone with the slight and contorted backward bend moves under it while maintaining balance.  I’m busy taking pictures of the group enjoying the party when I turn back to the Limbo action to see my gal-pal Greta wheeling her way under that Limbo stick.  Upon clearing it, she stops for her moment of triumph and gives a thumbs-up to the audience who responded with cheers!  What a hoot!  A local newspaper photographer was there and he prattled on about how awesome he thought Greta was.  Before I knew it, several of the residents were doing the limbo!

The Sock Hop closed with the LocoMotion, and just when I thought I’d laughed as hard as I could, our Campus Cool Cats outdid themselves by doing a conga-line about the Young Building.  With KWC students in the lead, Butch, one of our more gregarious residents, fell in behind them.  Then DSP’s rolled residents into the line, and those with electric wheelchairs joined in.  The entire line weaved all about like a snake moving through a yard.  Everyone, students, adults, Campus folks, guests, board members, and staff were all smiles.  Those on their feet kicked their legs left and right with the beat, those in wheelchairs moved their arms left and right with the beat.  It was really cool to see these guys and gals get into the music! I videotaped this dance and it makes me smile every time I see it.  As this event unfolded, joy lifted my soul, tears welled from laughing so hard, and a smile stuck to my face all day.  I’m willing to bet those who participated, volunteers and Campus Cats, got a little something out of it too.  Dr. Earle and her students did a great job engaging their audience, encouraging their efforts, and interacting with them through music and dance.  

It comforts and warms my heart to see our gang living life, enjoying life, and experiencing life and what all it has to offer, in this case, dance and music.  Volunteer groups, like that of Dr. Earle and her KWC students, give the gift of their time, their energy and their effort to those we serve at WFC so they may thrive, and well, in this case, bee-bop in life!!

In the Next Blog Entry:  “. . . . I heard one of John’s Dominoes competitors say, He’s kicking our butts in dominoes!  I got a nice shot of John looking pretty pleased and smarmy with his game. . . .”

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“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Painting the Town Red

Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) is very blessed in many ways beyond the holiday season.  Members of the community and various groups bring their skills, talents and gifts to share with those we serve.  Through a variety of event offerings, the individuals who live on our Campus enjoy the opportunity to try new things, challenge and expand their abilities, have fun and be a part of all that we enjoy in our community throughout the year.

One of the first events held at the Campus after my arrival was a theatrical production of “The Helping Hoof”, presented by the theater department of Kentucky Wesleyan College (KWC).   In full costume, the students performed this simple theatrical piece for their audience.   Bringing such activities like “The Helping Hoof” to our Campus makes it convenient for WFC individuals, especially when health/medical challenges makes going out difficult or impossible.  Many of those who live on Campus work, have a number of therapy or doctor’s appointments, or other things they do, so not everyone can attend these events.  They also have a choice to attend or not, just like you and I have a choice to attend any activity or event in the community.

Most get out in the community, and WFC strongly encourages this effort.  For example, a volunteer Community Companion took someone out to a local ball game at Owensboro’s Sportscenter.  One time, a local banker attending a sporting event at the Sportscenter noticed a few of our WFC peeps in attendance.  The next morning, he called my supervisor to say he saw them at the game and how distracting they were.  Uncertain, my supervisor listened as the banker explained he had more fun watching them enjoy the game with each other and their Direct Support Providers (DSP) than the game itself!  He noted they appeared to be a group of friends having a good time rather than three “WFC clients” with staff members standing by. 

Yes, getting out, engaging and connecting within our community is important; after all, these individuals are a part of our community too.  Jenny wanted to celebrate her twenty-first birthday like every other young adult wants to mark such a monumental life event.  So, she had a girls’ night out in which a few staff members joined her (on their personal time) to take her out for dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then, dancing at a local club.  I ran into several folks from our Supports for Community Living program strolling through Legion Park enjoying the Christmas lights display.  Even a few go down to the Eight Ball and enjoy breakfast, or a beer. 

Brad loves to ride a Rifton Tricycle around the building.  This three-wheeled adult bike is a physical therapy tool facilitating exercise and range of motion in the hip and legs.  There’s plenty of room to ride around the Campus building hallways and grounds, but wouldn’t you want to hit the “open road” with a “new set of wheels?”  With one phone call to a Campus supporter who belongs to a local Owensboro cycling club, arrangements were made for Brad to ride with the group on the Green Belt.  A man.  A “trike”.  The open road.  Brad is a different person when he’s riding, free and fulfilled.

Hugh E. Sandefur Industries is a non-profit organization out of Henderson, KY with a satellite facility on our Campus.  They offer individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities employment development and opportunities, job placement as well as work and social skills.  Each year they host a Christmas party in Henderson, which includes a DJ and a dance floor.  Several of our Campus peeps who work at the Owensboro location gussied up and headed to Henderson to dance the night away.  Rumor has it they cut a serious rug that night.

I recently was talking to an older relative about how many of the individuals we serve get out and about in the community; she was surprised to hear they even leave our Campus!  Many think those we serve can't and don't, believing they wouldn’t enjoy the many things you and I enjoy.  But they do, and do they ever!  They enjoy music, sports, and shopping, looking at Christmas lights, dancing, socializing and eating out.  Just like you and me. 

When we can bring the fun, dancing and music to them on Campus, we welcome it; but we encourage and facilitate participation in life outside of Campus – to live their lives in their community, just like you and I do.

In the Next Blog Entry: The Campus Cool Cat Be-Bop - “. . . my gal-pal Greta wheeling her way under that Limbo stick.  Upon clearing it, she stops for her moment of triumph and gives a thumbs-up to the audience who responded with cheers!”

We want to hear from you!  Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
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Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors).  Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus.  Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Angels Among Us

Each year, Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) hosts a Christmas party for everyone who lives in our residential programs, eighty-plus people.  Nothing is spared for this event which is spearheaded by Sarah Poole, Jennifer Owsley and staff from our amazing recreational department.  A catered lunch by a local barbecue place is provided, and this year, diners were serenaded by the beautiful music of Randy Lanham and his musical students.  Always a popular volunteer for WFC, Randy and his students bring their stringed instrumental music to our Campus, and it’s joyous to the ears.  Each program participant also receives a couple of gifts to open; what’s a Christmas party without a gift to open!  I enjoy this event as I blessedly capture the holiday festivity on camera.  This event also provided me with a wonderful opportunity to meet many of these folks we serve for the very first time since starting two months earlier.

Unfortunately, many who we serve through our residential programs don’t have families, or  they have families that live out of state.  Some family members may visit a week or so before Christmas, while others spend Christmas day with their families.  The holidays can be tough for anyone who has no family or feels disconnected from them.  Sarah, Jennifer, and their staff work year-round to ensure no one on our Campus goes without a gift or a joyous holiday experience.  They host several fundraisers and activities throughout the year to secure the funds for gift purchases for residents.  Friday Lunch Canteens, a “yard sale”, recycling, and other such activities are but a few of the ways they raise money to make sure everyone has a gift to open, either at the party or on Christmas day.  But it’s never enough.  Our community’s generosity supports our staff’s efforts in this goal.  For example, groups such as the preschool children of Hastings Early Learning School on Tamarack Road collected over seventy gifts this last holiday season.  With this generosity, every person living on our Campus is assured to have a couple of gifts to open on Christmas morning, family or no family.

This year our Campus was touched by a Poinsettia Angel.  A staff member shopping for poinsettias for our holiday parties at Walmart sought assistance from a store clerk, asking the maximum number of plants she could purchase.  Upon return, the clerk asked how many she wanted, additionally asking if twenty-four would be enough.  Our staff person said “sure” and they proceeded to pick the best looking poinsettias and load them up for purchase.  As she headed to the register to pay, the clerk advised the poinsettias were already paid for by another Walmart shopper.  It was their gift to our Campus.

WOW!  On Wendell Foster’s Campus, the spirit of Santa Claus was alive and well.  And being a part of it was the greatest gift I received this last Christmas; one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve received and felt in a long while.  Witnessing such Christmas Spirit shared with our Campus restored my faith in humanity and validated for me what really matters amidst the chaos of the season.  Yes, there’s always room for improvement for greater acceptance and respect within our community for the folks we serve.  But the generous outpouring and kindness given outshined those less than stellar experiences of scorn and discrimination.  That generosity brightened the lives of eighty plus individuals living on the Wendell Foster’s Campus, and one new employee.
In the Next Blog Entry: Paintng the Town Red - “. . . local banker who attended a sporting event at the Sportscenter noticed a few of our WFC peeps also attending . . . . . called my supervisor to say he saw our Campus Peeps at this game and how distracting they were. . . .

We want to hear from you!  Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.
“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
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Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors).  Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus.  Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cindy Lou Hoo and Me

My first Christmas with Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) warmed my heart as I witnessed the many blessings lavished on our Campus and those we serve.  I have personally felt ambivalent about Christmas for several years, especially since my mother’s passing.  I weary of the rampant commercialism and maddening chaos around it, feeling Cindy Lou Hoo’s pain in “The Grinch" as she wonders, Where are you Christmas?  I never expected Christmas with WFC would open, fill and instill my heart with faith that Christmas in its truest meaning does exist!  Christmas 2011 was the most memorable Christmas I’ve had since my return to Owensboro.

Sts. Joseph and Paul Church kick-started our Campus community’s holiday spirit with a choir performance.   Unable to attend their Christmas Cantata, I heard it was moving and festive for the audience that packed the Young Building.  Afterwards, the choir took requests and sang traditional Christmas songs, encouraging their Campus audience to join them, which several did.

Campus festivities continued with an employee Christmas party which included special guests, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, on hand to meet and greet their fans, young and old.  My Inner Child squealed with glee to see Santa, especially when he said hello and shook my hand!  Watching other co-workers’ children and grandchildren visit with Santa was a treat as they looked at the Jolly Old Man with eyes filled of wonder and awe.

WFC employees perform an annual tradition of singing Christmas carols around Campus.  Each year, administrative staff and a few board members warm up rusty vocal chords in preparation to sing holiday carols to Campus residents.  I loved caroling as a child but as an adult could never find grownups willing to engage in this time-honored tradition with me.  I eagerly volunteered to participate and while I’m not the best singer in the world, I can carry a tune.  Feeling the nip of the “Bah Humbug”, I decided sharing my warbling voice would shift my mood, never mind doing something special to dissipate the holiday blahs others may be feeling this time of year. 

Our small group of carolers visited each Centre Pointe cottage, gathering in the TV area where folks congregated to listen.  More exciting to me was hearing a few of the Cottage residents join along in song!  Despite his verbal challenge, John joined us, hitting with resounding enthusiasm the last one or two words of each line we sang.  His participation moved me, bringing tears to my eyes as I watched him revel in the spirit and joy of song.  His spirited effort outshined our group’s efforts combined.  It'd be cool if he joined us next year for the caroling!

From the cottages we moved to the Supports for CommunityLiving (SCL) houses where we caroled in front yards or inside living rooms, depending on the occupants' preference.  Once again, others joined us, including Mark, Mary, and even Butch who accompanied us on tambourine!  It was awesome, and their chiming in with us in song simultaneously surprised and thrilled me.  I am truly in awe by the countless abilities of the people we serve! 

While I was the caroler lifting others' spirits that afternoon, it was my spirit that was lifted by our Campus members.  These beautiful souls resuscitated my belief in Christmas and its spirit of love and the sharing of heart.  Oh, and Cindy Lou Hoo, Christmas can be found at Wendell Foster’s Campus.

In the Next Blog Entry:  Angels Among Us - many who we serve through our residential programs don’t have families, or have families that live out of state . . . . .”

We want to hear from you!  Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
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Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors).  Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus.  Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Farewell Jerr Bear

Being new to Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC), I hadn’t developed many relationship bonds with the residents but this all would change as I spend more time with the folks we serve in the Supports for Community Living (SCL) program, and the Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) of Centre Pointe, through our outpatient services of Green Therapy Pavilion and through the many Campus activities.  Many of the folks who live on our Campus came here as children or young adults, while others arrived within the last several years.  Two of our own who'd recently passed away to don angel’s wings were older, and well, we just know older people get sick and die, right?  Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier, but it makes more sense to us.  And so, I naively believed, given I’m still new, I wouldn’t experience heartbreak or grief around the loss of an individual for a long time.  Jerry proved me wrong, teaching me the valuable lesson to value every moment we share with someone who touches our heart, who touches our soul.

On January 9, 2012 I met and spent the day with Jerry Watson as shared in previous blog chaptersJerry's eyes are what struck me the most whenever we connected in “yes” and “no” conversations.  They were determined, and I could tell in them he had so much more to say than he was able to fully express as we visited at lunch.  I sensed a sharp intelligence behind those eyes.  They say the eyes are the windows to the soul.  I’d briefly cross paths with Jerry a couple more times in the two short weeks that followed, even asking him upon our first encounter if he remembered me to which he said, yep.  I was looking forward to future Campus events in which we’d run into each other and visit.  I looked forward to sneaking away from the office again to spend another day out with him and others on another SCL trip.

That time wouldn’t come because two weeks after our first meeting, Jerry was hospitalized with pneumonia, and Jerry would never return home to WFC again.  He passed away in the wee hours of the morning on January 31, 2012.  He was 34 years old.

When I heard about the news of his hospitalization and that things weren’t looking good, I felt concern, but it never registered within me that he wouldn’t pull through it.  When I heard his health worsened, and Hospice had been called in, I began to realize he probably wouldn’t make it.  Upon hearing of his death the same morning I came in to work, I wasn’t surprised.  In fact, I numbly received the news.  My head had me believing what brief relationship Jerry and I had wasn’t enough to emotionally affect me.  This death would be like others; I won’t feel the grief. 

I was wrong.  A couple of days after his death, I sat at my desk working through lunch when I received an email forwarded to me from our CEO on an unrelated matter; however, the email originated from an email announcement of Jerry’s passing.  As I stared at the email, the emotion caught me off guard and welled up within me like lava bubbling to the surface of a volcano.  I broke down, sobbing.  I surprised myself as I cried for about five minutes at my desk.  Even now as I write, I get teary-eyed.  We only spent one day together!  Why am I upset?  A part of me thinks, You shouldn’t be crying, you didn’t know him very long, not like the other staff has for all these years.
 
The thing is Jerry captured my heart. His soul spoke to my soul through his eyes.  When you open your heart to others, they find their way in and touch it.  Within three months of being at WFC, I’d opened my heart, and let these beautiful spirits touch mine.  Every individual we serve in some way has captured my heart.  Jerry and I bonded in a 2nd Street crosswalk, and over the Green Bay Packers.   I spent more time with Jerry than the others on our day together, crossing the streets in his sweet time, moseying through Towne Square Mall, lunching together at Show Me’s, and somehow, despite the communication barrier, exchanging a brief conversation about football.  It was the most fun I’d had in a while, and one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had since arriving at WFC.  My closest friend will attest, I prattled on about what a good time I had and how much I enjoyed the company of these Three Gents, especially Jerry.

Jerry reminded me about going with the flow of life, being in the moment, present in whatever the experience.  I also learned from him:
  • we can connect with others deeply when we allow ourselves to open up to it;
  • to be free of rambling thoughts that distract us from the moment;
  • to remember to breathe and focus on the moment at hand, and;
  • to let go of judgment and assumptions so we may really see each other, be with each other, and connect with each other’s souls through the windows of our eyes.
Rest in peace, Jerry.  We miss you.  And hey, let God win a few video games now and then, okay?

In the Next Blog Entry:  Cindy Lou Hoo and Me - "John joined us, hitting with resounding enthusiasm the last one or two words of each verse we sang.  . . . it brought tears to my eyes watching him revel in the spirit and joy. . . "

We want to hear from you!  Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
Please share our blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, or email!  Follow our blog!  Click on “Join our Site” below.

Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors).  Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus.  Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Friday, April 6, 2012

When Angels Ascend

Life happens.  Those who live here on Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) get up, get dressed for their day’s activities. Some go to work at local businesses, the Opportunity Center or Hugh Sandefur Industries, while others attend appointments with their doctors, therapists, or case workers.  Many go out into the community to run errands or enjoy an activity like bowling, the museum, or a day in the park.  Others go out for breakfast, coffee or lunch with friends.  Some days they feel great, other days they don’t.  And sometimes, their family and friends get sick and die.  Just as it does for you and me, life happens for those at WFC.

Within three months after my arrival, several that we serve were hospitalized for a variety of health reasons.  In the first two months, two of our WFC friends pass away.   The first departed this life two weeks after I arrived.  I hadn’t met or known her but she left behind many memories for a saddened community of friends, staff and family who knew her.   The family held a visitation on Campus in our Young Building so residents and staff alike may pay their respect.  I admit I felt awkward about it all.  Two weeks in, I was still unfamiliar with the environment and not yet comfortable connecting with everyone on Campus.  I felt the family’s loss; anyone who’s experienced the loss of a close loved one would. 

Another Center Pointe resident, Shelby, died after the first of the New Year.  He’d been a part of the Campus community for six years, and as verbally and socially outgoing as he was, Shelby had a lot of friends here.  I’d met Shelby in passing but didn’t have the chance to get to know him either.   Our society tends to believe individuals with developmental disabilities don’t know what’s going on around them.  Some believe they don’t hear or register the rude remarks people make, or see the looks people give them, or even feel anything emotional.  Well, let’s get something straight:  these people know exactly what’s going on; how others are talking about them; how others are treating them and looking at them, and; they also know how they emotionally feel about it all. 

Granted, I briefly wondered if those attending the Campus visitation knew what was going on.  Do they understand the concept of death, and that she was no longer going to be around?  Yes, they do.  Even a child may not understand what death is, how it happens, or why, but s/he knows something is amiss when a grandparent, family member or friend is suddenly not a physical part of his or her life.  As I watched the scene for a few moments, I also wondered how they express grief, if at all.  All of us express grief, though differently.  Because of verbal challenges, emotions may be expressed in different ways, be it frustration, joy, anger, or upset.  Joy may demonstrate as a loud-volume vocalization that some may perceive as a disruptive outburst.  Some individuals chew on their hands or violently hit their heads when upset or in pain because they are unable to verbalize what they feel.  Anger and frustration is physically demonstrated with hitting, yelling uncontrollably (a different tonality and pitch than an expression of joy) and physically jerking in resistance.

So grief would be expressed as uniquely as the individual expresses one’s emotions.  At the Campus visitation, I felt the sadness in the room.  It felt eerily quiet, yet some residents were expressing themselves in low guttural sounds.  I did not attend Shelby’s funeral, but I was told a few Campus residents in attendance outwardly cried in upset with tears over the loss of their friend.   Individuals with developmental disabilities are just like us.  We are all humans in unique bodies, emotional beings that uniquely express feelings to the best of our ability.

With these two souls passing, I realized our Campus isn’t about protecting those we serve from Life, but engaging them in all that Life offers, including the death of loved ones.  Being new to the Campus, I hadn’t developed a relationship with either of the individuals who passed, and I naively believed I wouldn’t have to experience heartbreak or grief around the death of a WFC friend for a long time. 

Yet Life happens; everywhere and for everyone.  I would be no exception. The Angel of death does not discriminate against time, reminding me as I gently remind you, how important it is to treasure every moment of every opportunity we have as we experience each moment and every person at hand.
Life is fragile, and precariously changes on a dime.  Jerry, a.k.a. “Jerr Bear,” would teach me with this valuable lesson.

In the Next Blog Entry:  Farewell Jerr Bear - But that time won’t come because within two weeks of our first meeting, Jerry was hospitalized for pneumonia.  And Jerry would never come home . . .”
We want to hear from you!  Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
Please share our blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, or email!  Follow our blog!  Click on “Join our Site” below.

Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors).  Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus.  Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Green Bay Packers Fan

Dempsey, whose disappointment over the Owensboro Science and History Museumbeing closed was offset with a visit to Show Me’s for lunch.  Noticing our pretty young waitress immediately, Dempsey, ever the ladies man, reached for her hand to greet her. Like me, she was caught off guard by his efforts to put her hand to his mouth, but when Kalinn yet again explains what he is doing, our very young waitress was charmed.  We all would enjoy a periodic chuckle every time our waitress came to Dempsey’s table to place or clear plates around him.  His head snapping to attention to check her out was hard to miss.

Rex sat at the head of our table like the king who ordered crab legs for lunch.  Lawrence, his Direct Support Provider (DSP), had to crack every one of them for Rex who isn’t physically able to do it for himself.  Rex gave Lawrence a hard time, and Lawrence gave Rex a hard time.  I’d later learn they have a close friendship in which they rib each other all the time.  Despite their talking smack with each other, you could tell each had a respect for the other.  Rex, independent for the most part, fed himself.  He teased Ashley, Lawrence, and me throughout lunch.  Rex is a funny guy who admits he’s full of, um, well, “cow manure.”  And he’s good at pulling people’s legs. Upon first meeting him, I told him I worked with Maggie Price.  He said without missing a beat, “I’m sorry for you.”  I took a second before I realized he was poking fun.

Jerry enjoyed his puree blend of cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, and fries with ketchup.  I was reminded of when my little brother blended spaghetti and meat sauce when we were kids because his jaw was wired shut.  You do what you gotta do to eat.  To an outsider, eating might appear to be a real hassle, even unappetizing to watch, but dining with the Three Gents of Wendell Foster's Campus (WFC) was quite an experience.

Jerry was enthralled with the sports channel coverage on TV.  On this day, the big news was the first round of football playoffs which continuously replayed the Denver Broncos’ game-winning play of an eighty yard pass by Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.  The single overtime play was the talk of the day.  Ashley and I talked football and who our favorite teams were.  I’d ask Jerry “yes” and “no” questions about football and who his favorite team was.  There were times when I felt he wanted to say more, but just couldn’t.  I felt frustrated for him.  I can’t imagine not being able to say what’s on my mind, and I had no doubt Jerry is a smart man who knows exactly what’s going on around him and what people are saying.  This fact became very evident to me as we were leaving the restaurant.

As we were preparing to leave, Jerry moved to a large banner on the restaurant wall listing the NFL Playoff brackets.  Jerry had maneuvered his way over to the wall as the DSPs gathered things up and readied the rest of the crew.  Noticing he seemed to be studying it hard, I didn’t think much of it.  But as we started to leave, he became very excited, which became evident by his involuntary body movement.  Jerry was motioning towards the wall with one arm extended as much as it could while leaning in to get closer to the banner.  His knuckles finally landed on the bracket words:  Green Bay Packers.  He’s a Packers fan!  He was getting my attention to show me who his favorite team was!  I couldn’t believe it!  It was a meaningful moment for me because he went to a lot of trouble to put in his two cents worth around Ashley’s and my football conversation.  I confirmed by asking him, “Is Green Bay your pick for the playoffs?” to which he said, yep.  Knowing he knew I was a Denver Broncos fan, I smiled at him, leaned in, and told him I still liked him anyway.  He gave me a smile in response.

Little did I know this interaction would be our last, and I’m so grateful to have had that special moment with Jerry.

In the Next Blog Entry:  The Grim Reaper Visits - I naively believed I wouldn’t have to experience heartbreak or grief around the death of a WFC friend for a long time.  But Life happens . . .”

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