Wesley, our middle son, was almost six years old when my husband and I took him to a child psychologist. Sometimes he was very loving and well behaved but other times he seemed defiant and was deliberately disobedient. He was here, there and everywhere.
We recognized Wesley was evidently suffering from a disability and we were hoping and praying for answers and solutions . But when the psychologist firmly told us we should put our son into an institution as he was profoundly retarded, my immediate but secret response was, “Never”.
For the next 10 years, my husband and I stood our ground. Wesley dearly loved his daddy and was always excited when he came home from work. Until then, all our other children took turns playing with him. It was usually when they were in school that he got into trouble. During these difficult years, my faith was becoming stronger and I began to trust my Lord Jesus to help me care for all of my family, and especially make the right decisions for Wesley.
Slowly I began to trust God’s Will be done and less determined to do what I considered best. When Christian friends suggested it might be God’s guidance to put Wesley in a group home, I did pray for an open mind and Godly wisdom. It was when Wesley was 16 years old that things got out of control. My husband called several group homes but they all had long waiting lists.
By then I realized there was nothing I could do to please Wesley, even if I stood on my head. I was finally able to accept that enrolling him in a group home with caregivers trained for residents with his type of behaviors was best.
We were desperate, so my husband called his friend, Ruben Askew, who was at that time governor of Florida. He recommended Sunland Center in Gainesville. My husband must have been very persuasive as they, too, had a long waiting list, but after listening awhile, the sympathetic intake worker finally said “Okay, bring your son here this weekend.”
After driving the two hours to bring Wesley to Sunland, my husband cried all the way back home.
To our amazement, Wesley adapted quickly and very well to living at Sunland. We found the staff to be capable and caring. Wesley even won an award for bowling in Special Olympics, which he really enjoyed. Each week, my husband and I drove up to visit our son. Even though we were relieved to see how well he was doing, I still could not hold back the tears when we had to leave to return to our other children.
Last summer, Wesley had his 60th birthday, and both his brothers and several of his sisters would be in town. His caregivers offered to bring him to my home and spend the day with us. All went well, and Wesley clearly was enjoying himself. He even seemed to enjoy posing for a family picture. I was a bit concerned that he might make a fuss when it was time to return, but all went just fine.
Wesley hesitated a bit when he was told it was time to get in the school van, but he smiled and cheerfully got in, as we all hugged him and said goodbye.
Wesley has clearly adapted well to living in his group home these past 44 years. The name has now been changed to Tacachale Developmental Disability Center. God guided us to enroll him there and gave us peace of mind.
We are grateful for His Excellent Grace!
Edvidge ( Eddie ) Davis