Monday, September 21, 2015

Marsie Celebrates her 80th Birthday!

By Guest Bloggers Bill and Barb Mathauer

How can I describe MARTHA “MARSIE” MATHAUER?

At the beginning, schools had no accommodations or programs to teach students with Down Syndrome or any special need students because the teachers didn’t have the education or experience to allow Martha to attend school with her brothers and sisters. 

No standardized testing or programs were even available to children with Down Syndrome or any other type of learning challenges.  But Martha had a very close family with great relationships and family dynamics abounding.

Martha’s favorite activities included taking family car rides in the country and trips to Linder’s Ice Cream store, riding her bike, playing with her dogs Spikey and Tippy and parakeets Birdie and JoJo. But the highlight of her day would be visiting with nieces and nephews and she called them all her “grandkids” because she lived with her parents, who referred to them as grandchildren.

There was lots of interaction with her siblings and later after moving to Greenwood, three of her siblings and their families lived on the same block as Martha and her parents and they all visited her almost daily.

She enjoyed making craft items, doll clothes, watching TV and was independent in her wants and needs.  Even though she was unable to read or write she loved books:  she would study the cover of each book and use her great imagination to tell you all about the story.  Another highlight of her day with her grandkids was when they brought her their old school workbooks:  she would spend hours tracing the letters and numbers and felt she had her homework to do, too.  Marsie loved make-up and nail polish and lots of magazines.   She loved to help cook and always expressed her ideas about everyday life because she was an integral member of the family, by often reminded her siblings that SHE was the oldest and so they had to do what she wanted ~ resulting in lots of joking around and teasing and of course, always plenty of laughter and fun.

A new opportunity opened up for Martha which she only dreamed about. She began   going to a sheltered workshop with the Johnson County Association Retarded Citizens at Gateway Services in 1989 in Franklin,  Indiana and she felt a great deal of pride and accomplishment.  She soared with this new independence:  now having her first real JOB outside her home!  She couldn’t wait for the bus to arrive and off she went by herself – what an accomplishment!  She easily made friends and enjoyed their camaraderie and even had a boyfriend “Teddy”.  They attended workshop parties and danced the night away.  This special friendship was another milestone for her, which enhanced her life experiences by growing and maturing in so many ways.

As time went on, Grandma spent various periods in a nearby nursing home.  Her siblings/ spouses and nieces took turns staying with Martha at night.  We were supposed to be taking care of her. When walking in the door from work there was chicken in the oven ready for us to eat & her clean clothes were in the washer and coffee made every morning - Marsie was taking care of us!

In 1990, Martha moved outside her home for the first time at age 55.  She moved into a group home about a mile away because her dad had died 11 years earlier and her mom’s declining health warranted a long term care facility.  This nursing home was also within 2 miles from Martha’s new group home operated by Cardinal Services.  Her adjustment went fairly smooth but she lost privileges because she was used to fixing her own food & coffee and now she was unable to perform those tasks without supervision. The other women at the group home had come from institutional settings and were gaining privileges.  There were some learning curves to manage and re-think – especially for the staff.  Martha’s roommate was her best friend from their workshop:  WOW! 

Martha resided there until undergoing a knee replacement & therapy and then moved in 1997 to North Willow, a facility for physically and mentally challenged adults with their own sheltered workshop facility for the residents.  She was excited to be able to help push a wheelchair for someone or pick up something off the floor for those unable to do it themselves.  She fit in very well and with her outgoing personality, she enjoyed the staff who appreciated her willingness to be the first to volunteer with using a potter’s wheel when the other residents were frightened to try.  She told them it was “neat” and easy to use and before long, the other residents took their turn.  Like any home, there were challenges but Martha plowed thru and continued to joke with others and enjoy herself. 

Martha continued to see family often and loved to go out to eat, go shopping and was very clever in soliciting a few dollars from family members.  When she received mail, she always looked for a dollar bill or two to be inside.  Martha joined in holiday parties, dressing as a “nun” at Halloween and as a shepherd and as an angel in the Christmas Plays. Our family joined her for these special times and she always enjoyed the visits from Santa.

She lived at North Willow, which became Golden Living for 18 years.  Then in the spring of 2015, the facility was changing its focus to just serving short-term physical therapy residents. This resulted in finding a suitable and engaging new home.  After much discussion and insistence by her family, we found a wonderful location near family at University Heights Health & Living Center.  When she was leaving North Willow the last time, the staff was pretty emotional at her departure because she had become their family, and ours, too

Martha gets around her new home in her wheelchair by walking with her feet and likes bingo, manicures, movies and surprises from family members who see her at least weekly if not several times a week.  Recently, Martha celebrated her 80th Birthday on July 24, 2015 with family and festivities!  We believe that Martha is the oldest living Down Syndrome person in the State of Indiana and she is such a blessing to all who meet her.  She has gifted all of us with her humor, laughter and kind heart.      

Unbeknown to any of Martha’s brothers and sisters, we discovered that when Marsie’s nieces were pregnant, they refused amniocentesis.  They were appalled that their doctor would suggest such a test!  If any one of them had a baby with Down Syndrome, they would love the baby without reservations.  They all loved their Aunt Marsie and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to try to change their minds by terminating  a pregnancy – it was so cruel and out of the question!  As parents, we were so proud of each of them.  They didn’t see those with challenges to be unworthy.  They were loved by Marsie and she knew how much they all loved her.   

As these “grandkids” grew up with children of their own, they continue to share their children with Aunt Marsie by visiting, sending her cards and pictures, taking her to a movie and sneaking her an extra dollar bill or two.

From the day she was born, our mom and dad were not given any hope of her survival past 10 to 15 years.  Doctors suggested putting her in an institution so she wouldn’t be a burden.  But LOVE and FAITH were strong beliefs held by our parents, and what a joy Martha is and how many lives she has touched throughout her life. 

Marsie has indeed been a wonderful influence in each of our lives and taught each of us Joy, Perseverance, Acceptance and to Seize the Moment by encouraging everyone’s dreams to become a reality.  Marsie has indeed gifted each one of us and is a blessing that keeps on giving with her spunky personality and big smile.  Thank you for letting us share Martha Marsie Mathauer with each of you and hope we always see the gifts in one another without reservation.  We are so fortunate to have Martha enrich our lives – and we thank God for allowing us to be her family.