2015-08-21 / Letters

Thank You, Rockaway

Dear Editor:

As my son Eric's birthday approaches, I made a list of all my gratitude.

At birth, my son was diagnosed with a very rare genetic syndrome. His symptoms include, but are not limited to, mental retardation, autism, and Tourette’s syndrome. When we moved to the Rockaways some 35 years ago, I was anxious that my son would not be accepted and perhaps even ridiculed.

This letter is long overdue in thanking everyone in the Rockaways for your acceptance and love throughout all these years.

Eric has had his issues with his health, but we thank God every day that he is now healthy. Due to his autism, Eric especially has had difficulty with socialization and language. Despite his disabilities, he has made enormous progress and there are so many people to thank.

First off, I need to thank the two most generous men who changed Eric's life. Mr. Melnicke and Mr. Russell from Park Nursing Home were willing to give Eric a chance to work in the kitchen.

Eric began working at the nursing home with a job coach from an agency called Job Path. While being trained, he was immediately taken under the care of a woman named Helena and a gentleman named Tommy. They guided Eric helped him settle in the job.

The home’s supervisor Paulette has been with Eric during his 23 years of working at Park Nursing Home. Her support has meant the world to us. The job has helped Eric in so many ways that are hard to put into words. Eric has greatly improved his language skills and increased his selfesteem. He is less compulsive and has become a much better listener. Most people who have symptoms of autism have poor social skills, but Eric has made enormous improvements in this area. Prior to working at Park, Eric rarely acknowledged others. He generally did not speak and would only respond with jargon. He now knows all of his peers at work and even gives them nicknames. He has a crush on several of the women at work and insists on bringing "sweets for the girlfriends." He has a special relationship with Shauntavia, and loves Brenda, Iris, Vaughn, and "Jazzy." Thanks for all of the attention and love you give Eric.

I don't want to ignore the men. Lindo, Jason, Quincy and Leonard, thanks for treating Eric like one of the guys. He loves your jokes and talks about you after work. All of you have a way of making him feel good about himself. Thanks always to Barbara, Roseann, Kerri, and Sabrina for always being available to help.

I would really be remiss if I didn't thank Tracy. She has worked with Eric at his job and the apartment for 14 years. She guides him to behave appropriately at the job and assists him in learning to do his laundry and cleaning his apartment. In addition she encourages him to be social. We would be lost without her.

I also wanted to mention that every interaction Eric has with the merchants in Rockaway can be like another intervention. When people reach out and accept him, Eric will rise to the occasion. I was reminded of this just last week at Harbor Optics. Thanks Carol and staff for always treating Eric with warmth and kindness. Maria at Ciro's Bakery has always loved Eric for the last 28 years. John from Ciro's Pizzeria is always funny. Peter at Rockaway Physical Therapy has developed Eric's program to improve his stamina and physical well-being. Our thanks go out to Jimmy McVeigh for your care and for teaching Eric the right way to jog.

I don't know how I could have coped without my family. To my husband Billy, your love and devotion saved us. A thousand special thanks to my sister, Patty and brother, Desmond. Your patience and love made the program at the apartment work. We love you and appreciate all you do.

I realize this letter is lengthy, but I wanted to make the point that every new person Eric meets makes him desire friendship. This enriches all of our lives. Eric may not have had any of these joys if he didn't experience the acceptance and kindness of the staff at Park Nursing Home and all of the Rockaway community. I am so grateful to each and every one of you. God bless you for your goodness.

Happy Birthday Eric. I am so proud of all you have accomplished. Keep living the dream! My heartfelt thanks to all.


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