Sunday, January 1, 2012

Music is Cape Coral man's gift

from by Cristela Guerra:

“You are my sunshine ... my only sunshine.”

The song seeps out of the partially open door and spreads into the hallway, stopping ... and starting again.

“You make me happy when skies are gray.”

Inside the small room at Cape Coral’s Gulf Coast Village Retirement Community, the curtains are drawn back.

“Come on Jimmy, sing with me,” says Thom Traucht, 60, Jimmy’s brother. In a wheelchair near the twin bed sits Jimmy Traucht. Some call him Jimbo, Jim Jim or their baby.

Others, when they ask him for prayers, call him a godsend.

They say he’s got the ear of the man upstairs. As Gulf Coast’s first and only resident with Down syndrome, the 85-pound, 52-year-old is an angel to those suffering from Alzheimer’s. He’s lived in their unit called The Cove for almost 10 years.

Jimmy sings to everyone, off-key, but never off-tune.

Music moves him.

He draws smiles out of those who don’t speak and uses two fingers to play the piano for them.

“People really love having him around here. He gets a response,” said Dawn Santos, Jimmy’s nurse of five years. “He’s not your typical resident. He’s family.”

In 1959, very few knew what it meant to have an extra chromosome.

The difference between the number 46 and 47 in one’s genetic makeup has the width of a chasm.

It meant a choice: Keep a child or hide that child from the world.

After nine months of anticipation, doctors told Mary Lou Traucht to forget this child, her fourth baby. He’d die by the age of 7, they said, and he’d be a burden.

“They said I’d have to bolt down my lamps because he’d break ’em,” his now 86-year-old mom said. “That he wouldn’t recognize us as mother and father, that he wouldn’t talk or walk.”

Fear was fueled by ignorance. A neighbor asked Mary Lou if she was going to bring her son home and what she would do if he hurt anyone.

The state could not take him for six months. In the meantime, Jimmy would be in the limbo of foster care. Mary Lou quickly realized there was nothing in those places she couldn’t provide her son.

She had to try.

Jimmy came home and went everywhere, from church to the grocery store, where Mary Lou had a pillow in the cart to hold him upright.

In the small town of Painesville, Ohio, he was the first person with Down syndrome many had seen.

His first words, one night at the dinner table, were “want some.” The first time he stood up on his own Mary Lou was in the kitchen.

“I heard the piano keys ‘plink, plink, plink,’” she said. “There was no one else in the house.”
Except Jimmy, whom she found near the piano at 3 years old, holding himself up while tiny fingers played a few notes.

And he’s her only child who never broke a single lamp or piece of furniture.

Mary Lou walked with Jimmy, at 9 years old, sporting a little blue suit into his former doctor’s office. She wanted to tell the man to think twice before repeating what he said to another expectant mother. And she wanted him to meet her son.

“He walked right up and said, ‘Hello doctor, it’s nice to meet you,’”
Mary Lou said. The man almost started to cry.

Read the full story here.

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