Throughout the 18 years with my son, I have been so blessed by Respite Workers. There are some who clearly fell from the sky and landed in our lives. They have left footprints on my heart forever and on my son as well. I am forever changed because of them and they have given me courage and strength to move forward.
The first is LM. Lorraine came as a graduated University student, to work with my son in pre-school/daycare. It was extremely important for her to have a professional image and would come to work dressed in a professional fashion. Within a couple of weeks, it was decided they would paint with orange paint and a carrot. My Guy has never been known to do well with Hand-Over-Hand (HOH) activities. Within seconds of setting the stage for this activity, My Guy proceeded to fling a well-ladened orange sticky paint carrot right into Lorraine’s face. Lesson learned.
Lorraine left us twice, both times to have a child of her own. Fortunately, for me and my family, she returned to us each time and even when she quit for good, she still came back. To this day, when my son returns to Ontario to visit family, Lorraine is on his agenda. Her kids still remember My Guy and where he lived and the things he did. LM included My Guy in every aspect of her life and shared it all with him, including her beautiful children. Walking along the Speed River in Guelph, feeding the ducks was one of their favourite things to do. I know one day, I will donate a bench placed along that path for the memories they have shared together.
Recently, I received news that Lorraine has colon cancer and she wasn’t given long to live. I did not accept this news very well, because this young woman has brought so much positivity to my life and my two sons, I could not fathom the injustice. I am happy to know that she has recently been accepted for a new treatment called “Hot Chemo”. She is in my thoughts daily, along with her family.
Then comes CM. Claudette was a gift. She gave me inspiration and words of encouragement to keep me going. In moments of my life, when I wasn’t so sure what the point was, she would appear with the right words. She saw my son as a gift and I saw her, as ours. She has a beautiful mind to match her beautiful heart and she generously shared them both with us. When I made the decision to leave Guelph, one of the hardest parts of making that decision was leaving CM behind. She will never truly understand the strength she gave me with her words to keep moving forward, in a time that was very black for me.
Here in Manitoba, there have been a handful of great people who have worked with my son, but there are 2 who have impacted our life.
The first is RC. Rosa is a mother of many adult children, including a daughter with severe disabilities. She is the mother of My Guy’s first school teacher here in Winnipeg and when I needed help that first summer, two months after we moved here, she stepped up to the plate. When I think of her, I think of the U.S. Postal Service mantra “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” She takes My Guy for a walk to St. Vital Park or numerous other routes, every other Sunday for the past 5 1/2 years. It doesn’t matter whether it’s –40C (yes that equals -40 Fahrenheit) or the sun is shining hot during a summer day. She treats him with complete and total respect and keeps the proverbial hand on his back, to go further. She is a fighter, like I am and she takes no BS when it comes to her daughter (probably in all aspects of her life). I love my conversations with her. She is tiny in stature like me, but when her mind is made up she packs a wallop. I have a lot of admiration for RC and she has never once let me down and has always treated her job professionally.
Lastly is LA. Ladi is one of the few men who have worked with My Guy. We stumbled upon him, when I had no Respite Worker for a while and he was working at a Day Camp here in the city. LA has the heartiest of laughs and treats My Guy with an incredible amount of respect. He is his friend, his brother, his older cousin, his mentor, but mainly he has become family. LA does everything with My Guy. Wherever LA goes, My Guy goes. If LA’s family is going out for lunch, My Guy is going with him. If he hasn’t seen him for a bit, he calls up and asks to take him out on his dime. I have so entrusted in Ladi and his family, My Guy spent a week at Ladi’s home, with his wife and three children, last year and this year.
Very few people will truly understand what it means for my husband and I to go on vacation and never once have to worry about our son/step-son. We know that he is in amazing hands and he is well cared for.
I have had Respite Workers come and go. The process of hiring and sometimes firing isn’t an easy one. I know no other job position, whereby you hire a complete and total stranger to care for the most precious thing you have in your life. My Guy walks out that door and I sometimes have wondered if I would ever see him again. I have had people not show up for work, call in sick an hour before I have had a huge event to attend, individuals who never showed up for their second shift with my son and never gave me the courtesy of phone call, someone who felt it necessary to carry liquor in her knapsack for those moments when she needed to calm her nerves, to people who have interviewed extremely well and asked for the job, only to have them call the next day and change their minds.
Yes, I remember them all, but as I said, there are those who have not only impacted my son’s life, but those that have helped me grow into the individual I am today. Thanks has always been such a weak word, for my truest of appreciations for these individuals. I can only hope their world is as kind to them, as they have been to me.