I've decided to spotlight one of Welles buddies every month. There are so many awesome individuals in the DS community, why not?
Introducing Casey... This dude is the man! He is 33 years old and has a job at Cafe Río. Everywhere he goes he carries a coke, Uno cards, and his cell phone. How do we know Casey? His sister Kamra went to high school with my husband. Kamra (Kami) and I met and became friends in our college years. I remember seeing Kami at Target with her cute big brother years ago and admiring the sweet bond they shared. She had her arm around him and walked with him as if he was a very dear friend. It was obvious that she was protective and took great care of him but also treated him like a grown individual - not a handicapped brother she was asked to babysit. That made an impression on me all those years ago.
A few days after Welles was born, Kami reached out to me with great excitement. Her message was so encouraging to a new mother in shock. She didn't feel bad for me or act sympathetic in the least. She was congratulating me and wanted to get to know Welles as soon as we were settled. Within Welles' first couple of months, we met with Kami and Casey. Soon after, we met with their mother, Becky and other sister Haley. We now feel as if they're family and are so thankful for them. Casey has become a big part of our lives.
Whether Casey is explaining detailed plans for his 40th birthday (in seven years from now), surprising my husband with full on bear hugs, or texting us to confirm meeting him for dinner at the end of his shift, he is always a joy to be around. Any encounter we have with Casey, makes for a sweeter day.
Last week, I sat down with Casey for a little Q & A to help the rest of you get to know him...
Q: What's one of your earliest memories?
C: "Theres just too many. I have to be honest with you— I get sad when I think about all my memories because I miss them. I remember holidays, birthdays and vacations at the beach. I have the fondest memories from 1990-1995. We don’t talk about the bad times anymore. Like when I got sent to detention. Also, I loved being in A.T.E.C."
Q: What did you learn in A.T.E.C.? (A.T.E.C. is a technical school where adults go to get further education and job training as well as life skills)
A: "Great time memories. I learned all about money. I took a bus. When I go see them at A.T.E.C., they remember all the memories. I’ve never had a best memory there. I love all of them."
Q: Who was your best friend growing up?
A: "I had too many! One of my saddest moments was when I had a best friend who died. Reed Bladder. I miss him and all the times he gave me." (Reed also had DS and passed away from a heart attack.)
Q: What's your favorite food?
A: "Theres too many of them." After rubbing forehead, he finally decides pizza, a meatball sub and a sweet pork burrito, and of course, "Love Coke."
Q: Do you have a Girlfriend?
A: "I just don’t like to talk about her with my mom. But I’m okay talking about it now. Well it’s all about her. I just want to do whats best for her. Her name is Celeste (she has DS). Her mom had her on a Sunday on July 17th in 83. She has memories like me, kind of. We’ve been together like 11 or 10 years. And now we’re probably going to get married in seven years."
Q: Whats your favorite thing to watch?
A: "Wrestling things."
Q: What jobs have you had?
A: "Way back I had a lot of jobs. Café Rio now, I have. First job was at Mountain View High School (as a custodian). I just listened to a song in my mind, and get the job done and then go home. People had really bad hygiene and I had to clean up after them in the bathrooms. I also bagged groceries and organized shelves at Smiths the grocery store, I organized shelfs. Then Worked at DI (thrift store) and organized all the ties. Now I work at Café Rio."
Q: Café Rio. What do you do?
A: Rolling his eyes, "I always tell people, You gotta be on time."
Q: What do you love to do?
A: "I’ve been watching all kinds of sports for like 25 years now. I like basketball. You know the best thing about basketball? I’ve been doing it for eleven years."
Q: Do you love Welles?
A: "When you first had him, I always dreamed of seeing him. I still do."
Q: Do you love babies?
A: "I’ll have kids of my own in seven years, of course I do! That’s a good question." (This response made me really sad. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with after having Welles, was that he will likely never have children, not that I necessarily want him to given the situation. Also, there have only been two documented DS men who have been able to reproduce.)
Q: Are you down syndrome?
A: "Yeah, I am."
Q: What does it mean to be down syndrome?
A: "I have to read that stuff at home. We have books and magazines. Oh boy, I don’t know how to call it. Our chromosomes. I think it's just a lot of fun memories of being down syndrome. I really do enjoy it. I really do enjoy watching those people on the internet and YouTube. Every major memory of Down Syndrome, babies or kids, we all grow older. And now we are doing things. Some people love being downs, some people don’t."
Q: Do you like being down syndrome?
A: "I probably have to say yes. Even when I don't like to be, I have to be." (One of my favorite stories his mom tells, is when he told one of his teachers "I grew out of being Down Syndrome a long time ago!")
Casey is a high functioning adult. I attribute much of that to his mother's hard work and dedication. She kept him integrated in regular schools with typical peers that would help him reach the most learning potential. Becky says this wasn't always easy - not all of the teachers were willing to work with him. Aside from the struggles of acceptance from teachers, he was blessed to be accepted and loved by lots of friends in the integrated school setting. These friends would pick him up and take him to movies, dances and activities, etc. At his high school graduation, Casey gave an incredible speech thanking his peers, teachers and principle and saying that he will miss all of his wonderful memories of Orem High School. He then ended his speech with "my mom told me to say all of that in the parking lot!" What a guy!