Tuesday, February 05, 2008


This past weekend - after the not so nice weather we had last Friday (freezing rain, sleet, a little mix of everything) -the rest of the weekend went pretty smoothly. Mandy took a couple pictures on Saturday of the kids and Sunday, Mandy, Maya and I got out and over to the nursing home in Clearfield where my aunt and her daughter have been residents now since August of 2006.

I thought today I'd post some of the pictures taken by us over the weekend.

Starting with this one of Maya - all ready to go to bed on Saturday night. A fairly peaceful process that night - for a change. Some nights -like any four-year-old -she can be really rambunctious about doing that.

Prior to going to bed that night, Maya was busy playing with one of those tiny little digital cameras - this one had been Katie's, no batteries, doesn't work anymore, so Maya has been allowed to claim it as "Her camera!" And Saturday night, she was having a high old time pretending to take pictures all over the place. Looks like she has the hang of it there, doesn't it?

Maya decided the best way to take a picture of Kurtis - apparently she wanted a good close-up too -so she crawled into the playpen with him to get a better shot. However, Kurtis wasn't all that appreciative of having to share his space with her and that's him in the background, trying to get away from Maya the Photographer.

And, this was the upshot of Maya's pretend photoshot, up close and personal with Kurtis. He voiced his displeasure with the whole procedure, long and very loudly too!

Actually, I captioned this one of Kurtis as 'Sometimes, Maya really scares me, ya know!"

Poor little guy!

But, you know what they say - "All's well that ends well." Right?

So here's Maya then -after scaring the living daylights out of Kurtis a few minutes earlier, tryig to comfort him. Nothing like a big old hug from big sister to make a little guy feel better. Well, that is until she starts to use her strangle-hold on his throat! Sometimes, she forgets she's a whole lot bigger -and stronger too - than the little guy!

As I mentioned, on Sunday afternoon Mandy, Maya and I went over to visit our aunt and her daughter. My aunt, who was 90 last April, is now bedfast -rarely recognizes us anymore and if she does wake up, conversation with her is very rare now. She's my Dad's "baby sister" and the last of his family. Until Monday morning I had two aunts left - Aunt "Mike" (Anna Mae is her given name) and my Aunt Isabelle, the widow of one of my Dad's brothers, who was living in Alabama now. Sadly, I received a phone call Monday around noon from my cousin - Aunt Isabelle's daughter - telling me her Mom had passed away that morning. She was 98! She had done remarkably well for so long but the past year, her memory had begun to fail a lot and then, the past few months, her physical issues had begun to accumulate and she had a massive stroke over the weekend and then passed early this morning.

Meanwhile, my Aunt Mike along with her daughter, Jane Anne, have been residents of the Mountain Laurel Rehab center in Clearfield since August of 2006. My cousin, Jane Anne, is the reason my cousins and I believe our aunt has lived as long as she has because until they were admitted to the nursing home, my aunt took care of her daughter, pretty much by herself in the family homestead. This was no easy task either as Jane has many physical issues - cerebral palsy plus mental retardation to name just two -and just trying to move or reposition her is quite a task for someone my size and here was my aunt, barely 5 ft 1 inch, managing to bath, dress, feed, get Jane in and out of bed every day for over 49 years!

While we were at the nursing home, Jane's activity aide was there, working -or playing -with Jane and it was incredible to see how many things this woman has been able to achieve with Jane since she began working with her as her aide! It was more than obvious that Judy - the aide - doesn't do this just as a job but it is a career to her, one she is very good at and you can tell just by the way she responds to Jane that she truly cares about Jane and is trying very hard to give Jane every opportunity to have the best life she possibly can have too.
This is the aide, Judy, with Jane Ann and Maya -in the hallway just outside Aunt Mike and Jane Ann's room.

I was so proud of Maya on Sunday because she reacted very nicely with Jane Ann. Sometimes, when we have taken Maya over to the home with us in the past, it has been a difficult visit for everyone as Maya was often upset or even I suppose not understanding and therefore, afraid. But this visit was totally different! She wasn't afraid at all of Jane, watched Judy interact with Jane with some of Jane's toys and Maya warmed up immediately to both of them.

I love this picture of Maya and Jane Ann, side by side.

When Aunt Mike and Jane were still living at home and we would go up there, Maya knew from the time she was about 20 months old where certain toys Jane had were located and as soon as we would get inside the house, Maya would run off to the dining room and get a particular puzzle Jane had, bring it into the living room and sit and play with it while we were there. It always made Aunt Mike happy to see the little nieces and nephews she had (in Maya's case, great-great-niece, you know) and especially to see them learn to interact too with Jane Ann.

When my children were growing up, they learned early on about Jane Ann - her issues, her abilities and because they were around her fairly frequently then too, they had no fear of her. My older daughter did for a couple years but that was because until Carrie was 5 years old, we lived in Maryland and only got back home to visit there maybe two or three times a year. So she wasn't really that well acquainted with Jane during her early formative years. Jane has always been a "people" person too - loves to have visitors and especially was always excited and happy when there would be small children around her. However, when Carrie was small, not only was she not very familiar with Jane but she also had long hair then too - which was an immediate draw for Jane to reach out and grab Carrie by her hair!

But when my son, Clate and Mandy came along, because they were accustomed to Jane from the time they were babies, they saw nothing different about her - just another child to play with, albeit one who was a good bit bigger than they were. But they - Clate and Mandy both, from the time they could walk, talk, play -would get down on the floor with Jane and play catch with her or play with her using other toys (which she had oodles of toys too they could pick from) and they learned very early in their lives then to be accepting of others for who they are, ignoring physical and mental abilities, they enjoyed and learned to understand Jane and others like her much better that way.

I wanted Aunt Mike to know my grandchildren and to be able to be around her and Jane and understand the place they both have within our family structure. My older grandson, Alex, who is ten was lucky in that he was able to spend a lot of time around Aunt Mike and Jane. As a result, he knows and loves them both very much and that love was returned to him ten-fold too as Aunt Mike just adored him -as she did all of her nieces and nephews over the years.

So many people tend to think so little of people who are physically and/or mentally challenged and because of the differences often seen in people like that, they teach their children to be afraid of those who are mentally retarded or who have physical things that make them look different too. And in doing that, all too often those children grow up having no clue, not a whit of understanding much less love and compassion for children like my cousin Jane Ann.

It's always been my belief that to raise children by shielding them from the realities of life - people who are different from us for whatever reason - that a huge disservice is then being done to the children by NOT letting them know how to treat all people with respect and decency when they become adults then.

By segregating children in that manner, they are deprived of learning so much about others, their abilities as well as their disabilities and how important it is too that people who face these challenges receive the best of training, care and above all, the love that is needed by everyone in order to function best through life.


Suldog said...

That's a wonderful family story. Thanks for sharing it with me. I'll say a prayer for your Aunt and Jane Ann. God bless.

Mahala said...

My mom and aunt ran a work center for developmentally disabled adults for several years. It closed a couple of years ago due to funding issues, but I still see some of the clients around town. There is no other lover more unconditional than what you receive from one of these special people.

Dianne said...

Jeni - one of the things I love most about your blog is that your heart just shines through each post.

Thank you for sharing this story and the photos. The look of joy on Jane Anne's face is wonderful to see and made me happy this morning.

Your children and grandchildren are so lucky to have you.

Sandi McBride said...

My cousin Francie is autistic and communicates very little with the outside world, but she loves children. I used to take my sons to visit her and they grew up knowing that everyone is different, that difference was natural. I'm so glad that Jane and your Aunt Mike have people like you in their lives...it makes the world a better place

Celebration of Life said...

Jeni: Thanks for sharing this story. Unfortunately, we live in a world of throw aways i.e. diapers, lighters and unfortunately some segments of our society. One summer I worked for a camp for disabled adults. At first I was scared of them but quickly learned to love them. There are so many people we can learn from if only we would open our hearts.

Mushy said...

My Aunt Maudie was buried today, she was 103, and had lived in a nursing home in Lawrenceburg, TN for over 10 years. I couldn't go because my mom was ill and we spent over 6 hours in the emergency room today.

Anyway...didn't mean to go on about my problems, it's just that your post reminded me of my aunt and today's adventure.

My God bless Jane Anne...I've often wondered what happens to such children when they out live their parents, and I'm sure this is probably just a best case scenario, assuming a nursing home will continue to care for them.

I agree with raising your children to see what life holds...both good and bad.

They are in my prayers.

Theresa said...

I finally got on your blog- for about 2 hours it shut down every time I tried to open it-but I could open everyone elses-wierd.

Love the picture and your caption "Maya can really scare me at times" and the make up hug is priceless.

I agree the earlier children can be exposed to disable people the better- so that they are not afraid, and most children at a younger age are more accepting.

Skittles said...

Oh my goodness.. Maya has done a lot of growing up since I first found your blog!

Dottie said...

This is such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing this family story of yours. I agree making sure kids are not afraid of people who suffer challenges of various levels. I try to teach that to my own kids. I hope you got some pictures of Maya with her great, great aunt too. Maybe you should do a generation picture? I just love family and feel it is so important and I can see/read that you feel the same. Have a good day.

Minnesotablue said...

Jeni: My youngest daughter took care of a disabled young lady and used to bring my gradson with her. He developed a special relationship with her and to this day he is very comfortable around people with disabilities
Your post was lovely. The pictures of your grandchildren are great

Keith said...


Jane Anne, Maya and Kurtis are all gifts from God. They are so lucky to have you in their lives too. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Bless ya!