Most of us look for love and support. It is so much a part of the human experience. Often people with disabilities do not have the opportunity or support to find and hold on to that love. But sometimes, just sometimes, the tumblers fall perfectly into place and love blossoms.
Ken and Marlene have been together for over 15 years, having met at the Mobius day program many years ago. They quickly became good friends.
Ken grew up in a large farmhouse; one in a family of 11. He had been born a twin, but a childhood illness, with a high fever, caused permanent brain damage and deafness.
As his siblings grew and left the nest, Ken grew bored and would walk up and down the neighborhood and into the woods, exploring. His sister Cheryl contacted a counselor who met with her and her mother and they were soon connected with Mobius.
Cheryl, smiling, reminisced, “Ken was so happy and loved the program there. For the first time in his life, he had something of his own; he did not have to share with his siblings.”
In 1999, Ken’s mom passed away, and he moved into a shared living situation with Cheryl and her family. Cheryl states, “He is a big part of our family and is very much loved.”
Ken has lots of friends and is a beloved member of his community. For his 60th birthday, in recognition of COVID restrictions, community members, friends and family participated in a “drive by” birthday celebration that included dozens of cars, trucks, and at least five fire trucks, sirens blaring, all adorned with balloons and signs. Ken sat in his driveway surrounded by family, clearly moved by all the activity. When he saw Marlene in one of the cars, he waved and his smile was a clear indicator that this was one of the best days ever.
Enter Marlene York: She is from Nobleboro and has not only been involved with Mobius since 1978, but she is also a founding Mobius client.
Marlene is not deaf but when her friendship with Ken evolved, he was participating in an American Sign Language class held at Mobius; Marlene soon joined. With Ken by her side showing her signs, she was able to catch on quickly. Both were also involved in Special Olympics. Marlene’s mom, Fondy York, worked as a volunteer for Special Olympics along with Ken’s sister Cheryl. All the athletes would be invited to Ken’s house for a cookout and a swim in the pool.
Ken and Marlene soon became inseparable, sharing lunch at day program, each saving a seat for the other. They would demonstrate their affection and mutual caring for each other, sharing their lunch, immersed in their own unique conversation, and handing napkins back and forth, laughing and just enjoying the day and each other. Just being around them, one could feel the joy of their strong bond; it was infectious.
For many years they would go back and forth to each other’s homes for lunch or dinner dates. Cheryl would drop Ken off at Marlene’s apartment and pick him up a few hours later.
Marlene now lives in a group residence and Ken is still living with his sister and her family. The staff for both work to ensure they get to spend time together, whether it is lunch once a month at Ken’s house or lunch/dinner at Marlene’s place. They are planning a movie afternoon together, an old Robert Goulet flick.
“I love Robert Goulet,” Marlene says with a sigh and a huge smile, “but Ken is my guy.”
The way Ken looks at her, it is quite evident that he most definitely is.
(“The Mobius Strip” represents our inner gifts and our outer selves working seamlessly together, creating a whole being. Mobius Inc. is based at 319 Main St. in Damariscotta. For more information, go to mobiusinc.org.)