Who would have known that a young boy, adopted at the age of three would rally a family and open new doors to life? When I was 10 years old, my parents sat my brother and I down and asked us if we wanted a baby brother named Bruce. Of course, we said. We were thrilled! When Bruce came home, we learned that he did not talk, but he could hug. We would hug him and he would not let go.
Bruce quickly became incorporated into our family and into our very large relative base. This meant he went to all our activities including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and all “group family events.” And to our benefit, we got to go to all of his Special Olympics activities. As my brother and I got older and our activities lessened, Bruce’s Special Olympics activities grew. He was involved in floor hockey, basketball, track & field and downhill skiing. He went to the county meets and even to the US Games in South Dakota for skiing. My parents became extremely involved in Special Olympics and it became our social life for many years. I was even his coach for 10 years! We all loved it!
When Bruce was 30 he moved into a group home and came home on weekends to live with my parents. Bruce’s interests and social activities continued and we loved it. My dad and Bruce had lots of projects continuously going, building tile trays, hot plates and windmill planter boxes. They were always either in the garage working with their tools or in the living room watching the A’s or Raiders play.
Four years ago when my father passed away, Bruce came home to live with my mother, who is battling short-term memory loss. With Bruce’s ability to remember everything and mom’s forgetting all events in the last five minutes, they are an incredible pair. Mom gets Bruce going each morning, even though Bruce is definitely not a morning person. Bruce keeps Mom company and helps her remember things, like where her purse is, if she fed the dog, what day it is, etc. He is incredible with the iPhone, calling me whenever mom needs something or when something is wrong. Bruce loves his iPad and he can tell you about any local or national event. He also loves to listen to fire calls on his iPhone and read books on “How to Be A Fireman” that our fireman friend gives him.
Bruce has held several jobs, including washing cars for the Richmond Police Department and being a bus boy at Denny’s. He is currently enrolled in the Film Workshop in Livermore and we just attended a three-movie premiere at Bankhead Theater. Bruce also participates in Special Olympics track & field, softball, basketball, and floor hockey, and his favorite activity is golf. He even won a gold metal last year in the Northern California meet. He is also in involved in Pleasanton’s Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled (RADD), Program, which allows him to try new activities and visit exciting places almost every weekend. He loves to learn about new places and try different activities. I frequently joke with him about having a busier social life than his sister.
Last year Bruce turned 50 and we celebrated by getting box seats at the A’s game with our extended family. We had his name put in lights so everyone could celebrate. It was a wonderful social occasion we’ll never forget.
But the reality is that one day Bruce will eventually have to live on his own. That’s why a community like Sunflower Hill is so important. My very social brother has been such a blessing to our family. My wish for him is to be with friends and in a supportive environment that embraces his desire to be active and interested in new things. My parents always told Bruce he was special because we got to pick him, but in reality, he picked us. And I can’t imagine a more special gift or what our lives would have been without him.
Written by Debi Zentner