By Daniel J. Vance
Evelyn Heckhaus of New Bern, North Carolina, and her 40-year-old son Ed talk daily. Their close relationship began 40 years ago in 1971 at Ed's birth when Evelyn encountered a situation most mothers never face. She reads this column in the New Bern Sun Journal.
In a telephone interview, 74-year-old Evelyn said, “The baby doctor said my child (Ed) had Down syndrome and said I should put him in an institution and forget about him. My husband and I decided not to do that and we took our baby home and loved him as much as we could.” A cell division creating an embryo with three No. 21 chromosomes instead of two causes Down syndrome.
Evelyn had this to say about her son: “The last 15 to 20 years, Ed has been a DJ for social events at group homes for other people with disabilities. He plays the music and people dance to it.” Arc of North Carolina, an organization helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, donated Ed's DJ equipment.
“And at church,” she added, “Ed hugs and loves everyone. People love him so much because he is so open with his affection. He's the last one to leave the building because he has to tell everyone goodbye. Because of that, he is the one that shuts the door and turns off all the lights. He goes into the nursery (on Sundays) too, and asks if there is a toy that isn't working. If the toy needs a battery, he will buy new batteries, get the toy working, and take it back to the nursery.” Ed is also the church acolyte director.
Besides enjoying playing pool, Ed lives on his own in an apartment without supervision. Not much upsets him. He had a good job at Walmart until misunderstanding his boss one day and thinking he was laid off when he wasn't. Ed enjoys reading and has been toying with the idea of subscribing to the New Bern Sun Journal.
Said Evelyn, “When turning age 30, instead of participating in Special Olympics, he decided he would start being a volunteer for it.” Part of volunteering includes being a Sargent Shriver Global Messenger, which means Ed sometimes gives speeches calling for Special Olympics donations, coaches, and volunteers. When asked how she wanted people to treat her son, Evelyn responded by saying he should be treated like any other 40-year-old man.
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