Forgive me. I don’t like to invest my time and later be told “to be continued,” either. But to fully appreciate God’s awesomeness, this is a long story.
Of all the 14 cousins in the Roeshot clan, aged 10-35, Ian is the most like his Grandpa. (which became even more pronounced with Parkinson’s). They are both…. confident, outgoing dreamers who love to talk to everyone and anyone, couldn’t care less if their socks match and are generally happy. In spite of poor memory and other deficits, they are unflappable, able to make light of any mishap. Uniquely creative, they both love to laugh and are comfortable as the center of attention. But at the same time they are tender hearted with a keen eye for the marginalized and the first to cry at movies.
Grandpa and Ian shared an extra special bond.
In 2012 Mother and Daddy moved to Foxdale, a retirement community that accommodates those who need an increasing level of care. Helpful since 5 years after Daddy’s Parkinsons diagnosis, mother joined the “P club.” We spent a lot of time at Foxdale and took full advantage of all the facility offered. To our kids, especially while Grandma and Grandpa were “well,” it seemed like a fun place to live.
In 2014, Ian’s senior year of high school, Ian had his first unwelcome stint of communal living. After emergency brain surgery for a large brain bleed, he spent six weeks at HealthSouth. The surgery saved his life but left some deficits. Deficits that officially qualified him as “disabled.” He and Grandpa would joke about their “parts that didn’t work” and the importance of living with purpose anyway.
That summer before college, Ian connected with VSA (Very Special Artists), an Albuquerque organization that serves the disabled community. With new empathy, Ian loved spending time at VSA. It warmed my heart to witness his interactions. Within weeks he was the big man on campus, fist bumping the students as he walked the halls. Normally withdrawn kids would light up around him and he would change seats often, so everyone got their turn to be close. Even though college had become exponentially difficult with his compromised memory, Ian had renewed motivation to finish. He would join their teaching staff.
Then, to really complicate Ian’s future, he was hit by a car in 2017 adding traumatic brain injury to his resume. Thankfully, VSA still welcomed him to volunteer and Ian was grateful to gain more experience. With Ian’s big personality and his comfort with strangers, Ian became a VSA representative and was relied upon at their promotional events and fund raising efforts. During Covid, many were blind-sided when VSA lost their DD Waiver status. The school abruptly and permanently closed, abandoning the many disabled artists and obliterating Ian’s dream to teach there.
Desperate to find some new motivation, I expanded my search beyond New Mexico.
Rainbow Acres, a residential facility in Arizona, with a strong art component, became interested in Ian. My crazy idea was that Ian could live there and get the added support he needed, but also be employed, so we/he could afford it. When I showed Ian their website, his reaction was immediate and harsh. “I’m not that bad, Mom. I just want to be normal!” Besides I’m moving to Brooklyn to sell my art!
More Closed Doors
I was so frustrated! But in time, the Lord softened my heart. I did and do get it. Ian feels like a fish out of water in every pond — too “behind” for his peers from college, and too “well” for much of the brain injured community. Still not afraid to put himself out there, Ian has worked several jobs. Each time, even though his employer is made aware of his challenges, eventually things crumble. An unpredictable TBI strikes again.
Past Several Months
While on sabbatical, I received a curiously timed email from Rainbow Acres. Was I aware that a donor had earmarked a large property in Sedona, Arizona, to be developed for the Neurodiverse? Might Ian be interested? It sat in my inbox for weeks. What the heck does “neurodiverse” mean anyway?
Separated by 5000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean, God was working on both Ian and me independently and simultaneously. In Albuquerque Ian, bored and unemployed, was acquiring some needed awareness of his not just physical deficits and a desire to address them. At the same time, in Cambridge, England, I was learning about a promising new opportunity targeting fish caught in the middle, like Ian. (Sedona Lago Gardens, the only program of its kind, is a short-term residential program for young adults with autism or brain injury. I think of it as a specialized degree in adulting for this amazing, gifted, and underserved population.
Sedona Lago Gardens
Over months of back and forth with SLG, it was hard to deny its ideal programming. Apparently Ian is the optimal candidate and they want to meet him. I delayed and deflected, keeping a lid on any possibility or excitement.
Upon return to Albuquerque and months of living under one roof, I couldn’t deny glimpses of change in Ian. His quirky, often inappropriate, behavior persisted. But now, he’s aware of it and wants to change!
Still, I’ve been down the road of possibility before. Disappointment after disappointment. So I tread carefully and prayerfully. But the Hound of Heaven wouldn’t let it go.
Early in January
Ian was dressed before noon and in one of his rare productive moods. Without any forethought or rehearsal I blurted…
Me. “Would you want to go on a road trip with me to Sedona Arizona?”
Ian. “Really? Why?”
Me. “Well there is this program for people that want independence and they’re interested in you. You may not like it, and it’s way too expensive and it probably won’t happen, but I guess it seems wise to at least check it out.”
Ian. “Yeah ok.”
Shocked but trying not to show it, I dropped the subject like a hot potato. With all the nonchalance I could muster, I ran it by Doug, contacted SLG and arranged a site visit before any of us chickened out.
Great Banquet Devotional
A couple weeks later, Doug asked me to share a devotional at our Great Banquet meeting. Just read one of your blogs, he suggested. But the Hound of Heaven wouldn’t let me off that easily. It was as if the Lord was shining a spotlight on the elephant in my heart. The scar tissue was thick and so were my walls of self-protection. He wanted me to trust Him, which meant I would risk being disappointed yet again.
So with reluctant obedience I did it. I spoke about my audacious hopes out loud, to an audience even. I mentioned our road trip and solicited their prayers. That single, simple act of obedience changed everything. The next day I felt lighter and… yes, hopeful. It was as if I, too, was along for the ride.
I felt emboldened as I prepared Ian for our trip. I showed him their website and thoroughly read the program description, not skipping over anything he may not like.
Ian didn’t flinch.
When I suggested he create a play list for our road-trip, he seemed excited even.
Loaded with favorite snacks, we set off. Before out of town, I asked Ian if it was ok that I pray. And I did. Out loud. I prayed for the Lord’s protection and for Ian to get what he needs out of this visit. I prayed that the Lord go before us and be with us every step of the way.
Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
The next morning, with great anticipation I plugged in the address and followed the GPS through the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona. Again I prayed, this time without asking. “Lord, please help Erin and Gary to get to know the real Ian. Help Ian to be completely honest and to remember any questions or concerns he has. If this is not meant to be, please make it obvious. If this is meant to be, help us to know how we can make it work. Our only hope is to trust you, Lord. Amen.”
To lighten the mood, Ian chose old familiar Disney tunes to set the tone for our day. Together we sang with gusto “Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife, Yeah, man.” We were ready.
After quick introductions, the need for trust became immediately obvious. Without any confirmed residents, SLG had delayed their grand opening til July 1st. (A relief, giving us some time.) With intention to recruit an ideal freshman class, they made it clear Ian was on their list.
As Ian’s enthusiasm increased, so did my anxiety. Ian showed his true colors, and we hid nothing. Sedona Lago Gardens, though, is obscenely expensive. And I couldn’t get the word HOW out of my mind. My thoughts were interrupted when Ian said…“I probably shouldn’t say this now, but Mom, can I come here?”
After a site tour, Gary popped his head in wanting to see me alone before we left for home.
Across the desk in his office he asked, “can I give you some fatherly advice?” “Sure.”
“Don’t spend all of your retirement on your kid. You’ll need to live too.”
It was as if he read my mind. My eyes got wet. And my thoughts raced…(But this would be such a relief, and what if it actually works, and it wouldn’t be up to me, and Ian would be safe, and Doug and I would experience a real empty nest and…)
Gary, sensitive to my emotional reaction, said, “Just remember that prayer works. I will join you in prayer.” In that awkward moment, with my head in my hands to gain some composure, a random thought came to me.
I told Gary about Ian’s experience at VSA and his success in helping their PR efforts. I wondered if Ian might help SLG? Seeing and hearing from a “typical” resident would go a long way to influence future residents, I suggested.
Our conversation ended with both of us committing to pray.
Home in Albuquerque
The next day, at home in Albuquerque, with my head still spinning, I sent a thank you email to the SLG team.
In a flash, I received Erin’s reply. “Gary spoke to me regarding your idea of Ian being Sedona Lago Garden’s spokesperson… I love this! What a great thought! We would, of course, give a significant rate reduction both on programming and room and board as compensation. We hope that will help. Thanks for your prayers for Sedona Lago Gardens.”
I re-read the email, dumfounded. Spokesperson. I never said spokesperson. I never suggested or even considered compensation.
Isn’t that just like the Lord?
I was excited and hopeful for some short-term relief! Perhaps a six- month reprieve from my caregiving duties, even if it was expensive. I would have been satisfied with that. But the Lord wanted so much more. He wanted purpose for Ian and success for their whole program. And who knows what else will transpire?!
For now we are buckled in for what feels like the ride of our life, unsure where it will take us. Ian is planning to move to Sedona July 1st and is EXCITED about it. And we are trusting the Lord with the HOW.
Ephesians 3:20,21 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I sensed a God wink when I read on the application that each resident must introduce their hero. Without hesitation, Ian wrote about his amazing Grandpa.
If you’re so inclined, we covet your prayers as we trust the Lord with the How. Praise God for His Faithfulness.
For His Glory,