Richard: Toowoomba Local Legend
As told by Karin Morris, Richard’s mother.
Richard is 52 years old now. Richard’s Fragile X was diagnosed the day before his 21st Birthday, meaning that his childhood and teenage years were spent as a regular but developmentally delayed” boy with an inadequate (bad) mother as I was often told by so-called experts. One particular comment inferred that I neglected my son by leaving him with a child minder in order to go to work.
It’s hard to imagine now, in 2019, the misdiagnosis and misunderstanding of intellectual impairment 30 years ago. And what that meant for the parent seeking an answer, and wanting the best for their child. How was it caused? What was the cause? Whose fault was it? Would a child with developmental delay have a full life? Be able to function at school? Get a job? Those were very difficult years of worry, doubt and lack of answers. But I am proud to say that Richard has proven then all wrong.
As I had to work fulltime since Richard was young, he went to Boarding School for a few years although he came home on weekends.
Once he came home from school we joined Special Olympics, which Richard loved. Richard excelled at sport and won quite a number of medals.
The high point was Richard representing NSW at the inaugural Special Olympics in 1986 in Launceston where he was presented with his bronze medal by the nephew of President Kennedy.
Richard started tenpin bowling in Parramatta with a disabled team in a regular league. When his team split and the end of the season one of the regular teams asked Richard to join them. He has been bowling in a regular league ever since and is a competent bowler with an average of around 160 (for those who know bowling!).
Richard also played competitive tennis, which he continued when we moved to Toowoomba until a problem with his knee meant he had to quit.
Workwise Richard worked for Ozanam Industries in West Ryde for 15 years. He was president of the workers committee for several years and received a wonderful reference when he left to move to Toowoomba. Our move was generated by his lung condition, called Bronchiectasis, which gives him chronic shortness of breath, and the climate in Toowoomba is better suited to him. Also we had family here.
In Toowoomba Richard worked for Endeavour Association for a number of years.
When I retired from the workforce, Richard decided to join me as a volunteer at the Toowoomba Hospice Association. The Toowoomba Hospice is an accredited healthcare facility that provides free palliative and respite care. Its mission is to provide quality care in partnership with the community for adults with a terminal illness.
That is now nearly 7 years ago and Richard is a much loved volunteer by both staff and clients. His role at the Hospice is varied. He vacuums, wipes glass doors, empties rubbish bins, runs around the place looking for cobwebs to destroy – and does whatever else he is asked to do.
I can’t say he is always the most conventional in his comments, and is quite cheeky. But he has great empathy with the clients and families, and they respect and like him for who he is.
Working at the Hospice is a matter of great pride for Richard, and has given him a lot of confidence, and a sense of self-worth and belonging. His commitment to the Hospice, and his work, is highly regarded. The Hospice team held a birthday party for his 50th birthday! And he was featured in a segment on the local Channel 7 News Toowoomba, as a “Local Legend”.
I think he knows at least half of Toowoomba, sometimes wanting to talk to people whether they want to talk to him or not! He tells everybody that I am stuck with him for good.
Richard and I enjoy travelling together. Richard has been on supervised cruises and three times to Europe with me. On our last trip he handled the group travelling with ease and again was very popular with his fellow travellers. We went cruising together and I got many compliments for Richard’s behaviour and his very sociable nature.
Richard travels with me to Sydney regularly, too, and Richard always likes to call in to the Fragile X Association of Australia office to say Hi. And to ask if there are any new FX caps or other things for him!
Lastly Richard helps around the house and is good company (when I can get him away from the TV!) The only annoying habit that he has is that he asked me about every 5 minutes if I am ok. This is part of the Fragile X habit of repetition!
I can honestly say that Richard is the best thing that ever happened to me and I could not imagine my life without him.