The timeline of my life is not prosaic as much as a history of the union of Julie and Frank Cameron.
I saw Julie for the first time around 1 July of 1967. I was on my way back to the seminary and Julie was working as a waitress at Parkers restaurant. We were not introduced. But I do remember her. She was my sister Peg’s best friend. Well I did not stay long in the seminary. And was home by October 67. My sister Peg organized a group of friends to go to see Man of LaMantia in downtown Chicago. She asked me to go along. I did. Julie was in that group.We had a great time. My mom and dad took the whole family to Florida that Christmas. While there for some unknown reason I sent Julie a postcard. A simple little postcard. That said wish you were here. Julie was visiting my sister Peg around 1 January 1968. I came in to the house and Julie said I got your postcard. I simply said oh good. But in my extremely immature mind I had already fallen for that young lady. And nothing would ever change that.
We began dating January 13 1968 and were married September 13 1969. My father passed away 3 months before we got married. The support of my Mother and Julie’s parents gave us a great base of support. Katie was born in April of ’70. Emily was born in February of ’72. I was not one to be fascinated by a particular career. I was just happy to be with Julie and my little ones. I had a job which put food on the table and provided good insurance. In March of ’73 we transferred to Louisville KY Julie’s hometown. We knew it would be an easier place to raise our children.
Katie was our first child and we were slow to understand that she was mentally challenged. Emily quickly showed us what normal development should look like. For all intents and purposes Emily was our eldest child and was Katie’s big sister.
We bought our first house in 1974 but quickly outgrew it as Devin was born in 1976. Emily started at St Martha. Katie was at the Ursuline Learning Center. We felt though that though we could afford the school for Katie there were many others who could not. We enrolled Katie in public schools and spent our money hiring a lawyer to ensure she obtained the education she was entitled to.
Julie started teaching in 1978. I started coaching soccer at St Martha in ’76. Great times. I was able to coach all of my children starting with Emily, poor thing. Emily graduated from St. Martha and went to Sacred Heart High School. Always very proud of Emily. She joined the Army with an eye on educational benefits. She moved out on her own in 1991.
Tom was born in’84 and yes, sure enough we had to move to a bigger house. But all good. It had a great little tree fort for Tom.
Julie and I were active members of what was the Council for Retarded Citizens, now, the ARC. As such we sponsored a couple who were mentally challenged and were able to learn first hand the obstacles that they faced.
In 1991 Katie finished high school and started working at Taco Bell. She is due at work at 11 but she is dressed and ready to go by 8. She loves it. She normally comes home on week-ends.
At the end of 1992 Devin attempted suicide due to a failed relationship. He survived but was left partially paralyzed. We were running out of insurance and he was still in a coma. We built an accessible home to care for him. Blessedly he improved dramatically with all his humor and intelligence intact. WE had gone from a $61,000 mortgage to a $183,000 mortgage but the Lord carried us with the help of our family and friends.
As Devin improved Julie came across a small accessible home within a mile of us. We both thought that Devin and Katie could live there. Our thought was that in time the house would be paid for and their disability benefits would provide the income necessary for them to live.
Well the theory would prove to have real value but the financial expense was too much and we had to sell the beautiful accessible home that we had built and move to a smaller house.
Our struggles though were rewarded ten fold when Katie moved in to a supported residential setting with ‘Dreams With Wings’ and Devin married Abie Agbinovia in 2007.
During all of this we tried to maintain some type of normalcy for our other children. Emily was already on her own but still we were not able to spend the time with her that we would have liked. When Emily married Vince and they began to have children were still working. We could not baby sit their children like we would have liked to. We also tried to be with Tom but children know. he knew he was always in the background.
But Julie and I were trying to accomplish two things. 1. Provide the best possible outcome for Katie and Devin, 2. and position Katie and Devin so that they would not be a possible burdens Emily and Tom. That was what we were trying to do. We had a lot of help along the way.
We have set up an insurance funded trust fund for Katie that along with her Social Security will enable her to live independently with ‘Dreams With Wing’s. Abie has ensured Devin and Osa’s future similarly.
My psychologist has assured me that Julie and I must relax now and take care care of ourselves. Our children are well taken care of. After so many worrisome years it is good to kick back.
Finally our observations one life shaped our decisions. All of you who are reading this know that what I am about to say is unfortunately very true but also somewhat follow the natural law.
The disabled, the minorities are viewed differently than the able bodied and the white people. There is no getting around it. Julie and I tried to help our children be involved in normal experiences as much as possible. They also wanted to be involved in the mix of life. At the same time, we knew that at some point our children would need to learn how to do this on their own. They have.