My field of endeavor for the last thirty two years has been working with adults who have developmental disabilities. Chronic migraines have forced me into early retirement, but I still go in on occasion to the same non-profit agency for which I started in May of 1980. Today was just such a day.
Whenever I walk into the building, it’s a warm welcome rivaling that of a family reunion. I have worn so many different hats in this agency, but have almost always worked directly with the folks who have disabilities. One fellow is very interested in airplanes, and knowing that my husband works for Boeing, he never fails to ask what new plane they’re working on. Matt* knows more about the latest contracts Boeing has than I do. And he loves World War II history as well as current world affairs. We have a good connection. I admire him a lot.
Then there is Cecilia*. She is a year older than me. And she was one of the first people I worked with in a ten bed group home. Back then Cecilia was a challenge, having come from a large family where she was used to expressing herself quite loudly. She would play her 45 rpm “Mary,Mary” by The Monkees ad infinitum. But over the years, she’s became so mellow and enjoys teasing people. Lately, Cecilia is struggling a bit with memory issues. She knows me as her eyes light up when she spots me, but she can’t remember my name (always called me Arene as Andrea was too hard to say). If Cecilia is having trouble placing who I am, I ask if she has sneezed and scared the cat, because it happened once, and it makes her laugh with pure delight.
I love catching up with everyone, but there’s never enough time. Some have been on wonderful vacations since I’ve seen them last. One man showed me his new backpack he bought in Hawaii. Some proudly revealed Christmas coats or shirts they received. I love seeing everyone. Many of the folks have been there for years, and most of the staff has also been around for over five years plus. We know each others’ stories and play quick catch-up. I feel fortunate in that even though I may not have had a stellar career, I certainly had a rewarding one. All I need is to come back “home” to this place where memories shared are just a whisper away, and I’m surrounded by ever lasting friendships.
*Names have been changed to protect real identities