Rodney is one of those people who brings a bright ray of sunshine to your life. He loves to pick on people and is very good at it! Rodney is my cousin and we are a little more than a year apart in age. I love Rodney will all my heart and whenever he is sick, my heart aches!
Rodney has overcome many things in his life. When he was born they told my Aunt Carolyn, Rod’s mother, that he wouldn’t live past his teens. He is 43 and will be 44 this year. Every time I see him he makes me smile! I just love him to pieces. Being around him when I was a teenager really made me want to do my part to help in any way I could. His sister and I always wanted to buy a house and run a home where Rodney and others with Down syndrome could be encouraged to be as independent as they could. We wanted them to make decisions about food, doctors, and activities with as little encouragement from us as needed.
Unfortunately, we never we able to open such a house, but I did work for an organization that did just that! After working there for a couple of years, low and behold Rodney came to live in that house! I was ecstatic. I was concerned though that they may want to move me to another home because I was Rodney’s cousin. To my surprise they said “we wouldn’t do that; you may be able to help him more than any other could!” I was so happy.
After a while, however, I ended up getting married and moving away from the area. I did ask for updates on how he and others were doing. My heart ached as I missed them all. To date that was the best job I have ever had. It was so rewarding. People told me, “it takes a special kind of person to do that kind of work.” I thought to myself, no it doesn’t! I am not special, I am human! This phrase has always bothered me.
A couple of years ago we almost lost Rod. Down syndrome can be accompanied by heart-related problems. Rod was taken to the hospital and twice they lost him, but brought him back thankfully! This experience was very hard on the family. After shocking Rod and getting his heart pumping again he looked up at his family that was there and apologized for making them cry! Can you believe that? Every time I think of that experience it brings tears to my eyes. He was more worried about his family than himself.
I was actually in the same hospital at the same time as my grandfather took a turn for the worse and passed away there. So I would go to Rod’s floor and visit him and his family. We played I Spy and cards and he would sing Garth Brooks’ “I Got Friends in Low Places.” Rod would of course make me smile and chuckle which is what I really needed at that time. Rod would eventually get a pacemaker put in and a couple of months ago was given a clean bill of health! When my cousin told me this I was so happy and thank God every day for the privilege of having Rodney in my life. I really don’t know how I would go on in my life if Rodney wasn’t in it.