I am Ray Curtis.
I am the friendliest guy you will ever meet. Not an enemy in the world. I can honestly say that I have never met a stranger and you will be my friend in no time.
The Colts lost to the Giants and their next game is against the Saints. The first time you meet me, you may mistake me for Tom Brokaw because I talk about the day’s current events or the latest sports news. But I am Ray Curtis.
Batman has his sidekick Robin, I have my friend Evelyn. Instead of fighting crime, Evelyn and I have gone to the local dollar store, grocery shopping, and to the bank. I used to go alone, but now I forget to come back. I am not Batman or Robin, but I am Ray Curtis.
Evelyn and I were the Dynamic Duo of Hillcroft. She is my oldest friend. We met when I was still able to live on my own. For 26 years we have gone everywhere together and she has seen me at my best and my worst. I often obsess over things. Sometimes when I’d get really worked up, I’d yell, “You’re giving me a headache!” But Evelyn was always there to calm me down. Sometimes I would call her some very unkind names, and afterwards I would feel sorry for doing it. After that I would go to my room and take a nap. Not a superhero, just Ray Curtis.
You might think that I am a seasoned world traveler heading into the great unknown. My many travels have taken me to places like Washington D.C. where I visited the White House, to the Mall of America, Chicago, Florida, and a the Bahamas. But I am Ray Curtis and my best Friend is Evelyn Wyatt.
I am an expert on all things Beatles, wrestling, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne. I once had a collection of figurines so large I had to have my own man cave to put it in. When I get started collecting, I can’t stop. I just get more and more and more of the same thing until I have so much that I don’t know what to do with it all. I don’t know why I collect things, my need seems to take over and I can’t control it. Then a lot of my collection has to go away. There just isn’t enough room. Now I just have some figurines of The Beatles and wrestlers. My favorite, Hulk Hogan, is on my table. But I do have lots of pictures of Roy Rogers on my wall. But that’s the way I am, just me, Ray Curtis.
One time a head from one of the figurines fell off. I tried to put it back on with my stick deodorant. It was the best I could do. In another life I might have been Engineer Ray Curtis or Mechanic Ray Curtis. But no, I am just Ray Curtis.
I am not just about the Beatles and Hulk Hogan. I have a girlfriend. Her name is Jody. I started dating her right after I broke up with my other girlfriend. We have been going together for eight years. Our favorite date is to go out to eat and then watch a movie. I gave her an engagement ring and we are talking about marriage. She works next to me at my job at Hillcroft. I like that. Sometimes I go over to her house to visit. I do everything I can to treat her well. I am a true romantic and a real lady’s man. I am Ray Curtis.
I am a worker. My boss’s name is Curtis and he is a good boss, my favorite. I have had other jobs. My favorite was at the carwash. There I got to talk to a lot of different people as well as wash and polish their cars. At Psghetti To Go I washed dishes, helped cook, and even got to go on some deliveries. I am a pretty good worker, after all, I am Ray Curtis, but still, I can’t wait until Fridays.
My older brother Albert and I live in a supported living site. His diagnosis like mine is Mild Intellectual Disability. When we lived on our own, he had an apartment near me. Evelyn would visit us regularly and make sure we were all right and help us with our chores. My brother and I are very close. When he is not feeling well I can tell and I am very down. When I am sick, he does the same for me. I am Ray Curtis, and he is my brother, Albert Curtis.
I am Ray. I am 64-years-old. I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I get very upset occasionally and can be very persistent at times. I will always try to get away with far more than I should. When I do, you have to check with the staff to make sure it is okay. I also need to be reminded to clean up and wear clean clothes. I spend a lot of time in my room tinkering and watching television.
I want people to think of me as just a good guy. I am happy in my group home being with my brother. The best thing in the world is being around friends and brother.
This is my life.
And I am just Ray Curtis, and we’re friends now.
Tom lives in Muncie with his wife and 15-year-old daughter. When not working as a business advisor for the ISBDC or rehabbing his house in the Historic Emily Kimbrough Neighborhood, Tom is always looking for new and interesting challenges.
This story originally appeared in Facing Disabilities in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Hillcroft Services in Muncie, Indiana.