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I had the rare gift of time as Beth started her senior year of high school. She didn’t need me at school midday. Never bored, I protected my free hours by not turning the TV on during the day. I personalized three mother’s journals, one for each of my kids, with childhood memories and family history. I picked up needlework and writing projects, humming along to classic tunes playing in the background.
I connected with Maria when she wasn’t at one of her jobs, college classes, or choir practices. Sometimes we met at Taco Bell to catch up over lunch. I called my parents on the phone and sent care packages to Ben at OSU. I walked for exercise. I met a friend for brunch most weeks at Bob Evans. When the waitress saw us approach from the parking lot, she had our iced teas ready.
John never suggested I work outside the home in any way. We had enough, with his steady income and our frugal ways. But I convinced myself that I should return to a paid job for the school year until Beth started college. She gained more independence and encouraged me, assuming I wanted to work.
Beth liked the idea of pushing the limits of her disability more often, and not relying on me when she was rushed or tired.
I debated between a demanding job at better pay and a minimum wage job with less responsibility. With few choices in Tiffin, I decided to support adults with developmental disabilities. A job where I could make a small difference. A local agency offered me a group home manager position in a nearby town.
A familiar job.
Years earlier, a few weeks after my wedding and newly nineteen, I assumed the role of live-in manager at a different group home. John and I moved in before he started his first elementary teaching job. The year was 1977, during the first wave of the exodus from Ohio institutions. The best candidates for community living left first, including my four residents.
Even so, the transition challenged everyone involved, every day.
A few decades had passed since my first group home job, and some state institutions had closed. The exodus slowed to a trickle and included residents with multiple challenges. I accepted my new manager position on a Friday—without visiting the group home first. I hoped for the best. I could handle most anything for less than a year. Couldn’t I?
Next: Overwhelming responsibilities!
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