The Life of Gerard Fobes
by Stephen Fobes
October 7, Part 1 - Gerard's early, and sometimes difficult, years.
October 20, Part 2 - Gerard's High School Experience (the Secret Weapon!)
October 27, Part 3 - Garth Brooks and the Music Video.
November 3, Part 4 - The many sides of Gerard Fobes.
Gerard is incredible. Although he has Down's syndrome his life is an adventure as he lives life to the fullest.
Gerard's mother, Jeanne, prayed for one thing that would make a wonderful difference in Gerard's life and that was for him to be able to read. Her prayer was answered. When he was a baby, Gerard loved to have someone read to him. He wanted the same book to be read as many times as we wanted to read it to him. He was barely able to talk; yet he would memorize an entire book. When he could talk, he would read the complete book back to us.
When he made up his mind to do something, he would persist, despite his and our frustration, until he accomplished it. He never crawled like most babies do, he rolled wherever he want to go. But he didn't roll for long, as soon as the possibility of walking opened up to him, that was it. He wanted to walk. Jeanne would walk huddled down behind him for hours. Her back would be killing her, yet they persisted. She did this because she feared that he would fall backwards, stiffen up as he fell, and hit his head on the floor. One day Jeanne went out for the evening and I took care of Gerard. I let him walk without assistance. Soon he was walking through the dining and living room without a fall. When Jeanne got home, I asked her if she would agree that if Gerard could walk the length of the two rooms, he was walking and would not need her back breaking assistance. He walked the length of the rooms and although he fell, he fell on his butt and did not stiffen and hit his head on the floor. He was walking.
We took Gerard for an IQ test to get a better assessment of his IQ and mental ability. He was given a battery of tests and to the consternation of the Psychologist his results were so high for a child with Downs, and not consistent with results the Psychologist expected, that he discounted the results. He kept apologizing for the inadequacy of the test. Some years later that same Psychologist, despite our experience with Gerard's capabilities, was totally against a placement in mainstreaming classes at Corona Del Mar High School. Gerard eventually was mainstreamed and successful at that school. At a meeting after graduation, that same Psychologist, after failing to stump Gerard with questions about the music of the 50's, and seeing how successful Gerard had been in school, realized his error.
Jeanne and I had a rough time deciding where to place him for schooling. Jeanne did a tremendous amount of research to find the right school for Gerard. He was too smart to be with the profoundly mentally handicapped, yet he couldn't make it with the normal students.
When searching for a pre-school Jeanne selected Helping Hand School in Fullerton. The school was approximately 30 miles away, but Jeanne thought the drive was worth it if the school was what he needed. When Gerard walked into the school, he said to his mother "Look mom, a scarecrow". The teacher seeing how advanced he was for a 4 year old Down's, indicated the school would not be a good placement.
Jeanne tried at least six different pre-schools and elementary schools. None of them really were good for Gerard. At one school, the playground was not closely supervised. Gerard was an adventurer and walked off the school ground. He noticed a Fed Ex van with the back door opened, so he crawled in and closed the door from the inside. Luckily a woman passing by saw what had happened and notified the driver. After that incident someone from the family had to go out to school and supervise Gerard when they went out to the playground.
For Junior High, we decided to send him to a Catholic School in St. Louis that specialized in children with a mental handicap. He had a phone card and could call home at any time and he did, usually telling us that he was really a California kind of guy and it was too cold in St. Louis. Jeanne and I visited him several times and began to question our decision to send him to that school. He was very creative and knew how to make up our minds. On Thanksgiving all students had to leave the school and go home or to some other residents. Gerard was to pack a few things and fly home for the week. When we picked him up at the airport he had all his bags packed. He clapped his hands together and said. "All my clothes are here and I'm staying home".
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