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Mary214 3 years ago 140
"My Daddy's Dead", was how the phone call started with Jack, my husband's uncle. Jack was not upset, just stating a fact, not realizing how this event would impact our lives as well as his for the next 20 years. Jack, who at the time of his Father's death, was 56 years old with a mental age of 8 and was living at home. His Mother had passed away many years earlier. His father left no will, assuming Jack would fend for himself. His only brother had died several years before. Jack worked as a part time gardener mowing lawns for some neighbors. He could not drive. He had a credit card for daily expenses. His mother had taught him how to sign his name. He could not read. His mother pulled him out of school after first grade and he never returned. Jack trusted everyone and gave his credit card freely to anyone who drove him to his favorite local diner for a hamburger. Jack's only concern in life was making sure he could get to the diner for his hamburgers several times a day.

My husband and I, newly wed and in our twenties stepped in. I shopped for Jack, brought him groceries and tried, without success to teach him basic cooking. Jack enjoyed the outings but his motivation in life remained simple. Jack's friendly personality and obvious disabilities became readily apparent to people who took his credit card as their own and moved into his house as his "friends". We hired a lawyer to gain guardianship and then suggested to Jack that an assisted living arrangement would best. He would rather kill himself he told me, than move from his home. He had people who were his friends and would take care of him; he didn't need us.

We tried to work with Jack's desire for independence but as the years wore on, our struggles with the people who "befriended" Jack grew beyond reason. We finally move Jack to an assisted living arrangement and to our surprise, he did not complain. He was happy with the food and happy with the people he was meeting there. Jack died peacefully at the age of 69. He was for the most part always a happy guy. He loved the world, and liked almost everyone he met.

We stepped into our first care giving roles without any idea of what we were getting into. At that time, there was no internet, and support systems were limited. We learned a lot from our experience with Jack. We learned grace and patience while trying to deal with someone's basic wants and needs and when our personal safety as well as Jack's became threatened, how to take control in difficult situations. We saw first hand how some people steal, lie and hurt others without giving another thought to their actions. Yet, the people I remember most are the neighbors who kept on eye on Jack, showed him kindness and kept us informed. That, in itself, offered us tremendous support.