There I was (before COVID-19), working at my computer in Barnes and Noble, when five people from a facility for the disabled arrived at the cafe. One woman with Down syndrome, three men, and the supervisor made up the group. Two men and the supervisor were engaged in an animated discussion about an error in their schedule. The supervisor conversed loudly on her cell phone. The woman with Down Syndrome hugged the man with gray hair, draping herself over him. They kissed softly, and I remembered Ralph and Darla from Marc Center.
Ralph and Darla had Down Syndrome. They were lovers, sweet and fun, and prone to sneaking away to neck in the back yard. They lived in separate men’s and women’s apartments in a group home operated by Marc Center, in Mesa, Arizona.
Known as Marc Center (Mesa Association for Retarded Citizens, founded in 1957), this organization provided a job for me and housing for our family until my son was a year old.
While my husband worked long days at the Veteran’s Administration, my job was to be the supervisor for the four men and four women who lived in two of the three apartments in our building.
I was on duty from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. The eight residents went to work in the morning, and returned at about 3:30 pm in the afternoon, when the life skills instructors arrived to guide everyone through daily chores and meal preparation. Every other weekend, my husband and I were expected to provide some activities and outings.
Watching the supervisor and her charges here in Barnes and Noble, I was reminded of myself when I juggled new motherhood and the same job. Memories returned, making me smile, and shake my head in wonder, amusement, and tenderness:
-the time Lenny set fire to the string in the bottom drawer of his dresser
-the many times Sylvia begged to hold my precious, new baby boy, and drooled with joy all over his head
-the time Duke put his fist through the plate glass window and I found him holding his bleeding wrist over the bathroom sink
-the thrilling success of arranging a trip home for Sylvia, who missed her family
-the time Lenny (again) stole Sylvia’s big tricycle and rode off into Mesa
-how the four men idolized The Fonz, and religiously watched Happy Days
-how hot and dry and brown it was in Arizona, and how much I missed green trees and the sea
I reflected on all that I learned from the residents and the life skills instructors.
Searching online, I found that Marc Center is alive and thriving.
Marc Community Resources, Inc. is a private nonprofit corporation providing educational, therapeutic, rehabilitation and social services to children and adults with developmental and, physical disabilities and behavioral health challenges.