Carl was a friend of mine, and someone supported by the agency I worked for. Everyone on the campus knew him. He drove a John Deere tractor, smoked a pipe and talked to anyone who would listen. When he got to his mid-60s he decided he wanted to leave campus life. He wanted a home of his own, a dog and an occasional beer. Carl had goals. He was reaching higher. He knew he would be happier living alone, cooking his own food, managing his time, taking care of his space. This was a great goal, but neither Carl’s team nor his mother approved. Carl asked to meet me personally about it. As we chatted over a cup of coffee, Carl made it clear that he did not want to live in a group home. He knew it was not an easy goal to reach and he said “You have the power to make it happen.”
Carl’s mom was an influential donor, board member and really caring person, but she had her mind set on Carl’s current living situation. The top leaders of the company knew he would be okay on his own, but would not go over mom’s objections.
So I started a campaign. In those days, there was a team called the IOC, Inspection of Care. They came to the agency once a year to certify that the clients belonged in that level of care. I had decided to convince them to say that Carl did not need to be there. It took longer than you would imagine. I baked the team members’ scones to get them to know me. The scones turned into conversations until finally, three batches later, they found Carl, and shortly after, he was given his official walking papers to leave.
The president of the agency granted Carl a rent-free home for the duration of his life. My colleagues and I formed an unpaid circle of support to get Carl started in his home. I will always remember his last team meeting and his first day home. The team said that Carl did not have the skills. Carl’s home was a few doors down from mine, so I visited on his first day, and we chatted about menus and he demonstrated some pretty awesome cooking skills. I found later that the team had not given him an instruction in those skills and he was not expected to perform those tasks. So no one knew what Carl was really capable of.
Carl was pretty athletic for his age, traveling all around on foot or on his bike. He settled into a routine that our circle of three supported, his mom and I and woman named June.
Keep in mind that one of my greatest goals was to close institutions. While I did my part and there were many who left to live in the community while I worked there, this story imparticular means so much to me. I want you to know more about Carl’s life, some of the awkward moments and Carl’s passing. The story will continue in the next blog.