This is not the first time Tracie Sheppard is being interviewed. In fact, her story has been published in community newspapers. What attracted reporters then was the fact that Tracie, who has a developmental disability, is living independently.
Tracie is a participant at Semiahmoo House Society and she enjoys the various programs, including learning a new language. This afternoon, she has just entered my office at The Treehouse along with her mother Marie Sabine who happens to be a colleague of mine. Both women are pleasant and smiley as they talk about Tracie’s life as an independent woman.
She has been living independently for 5 years now. Marie exclaims: “I’m really proud of Tracie. She has made a giant leap. I was worried, but she has proven she can do things and make her own decisions.” As Marie articulates that sentiment, I hear a sigh from Tracie. When Marie is finished speaking, I ask Tracie: “I noticed that you sighed when your mother said she was proud of you. What was that all about?” Tracie tells me in her quiet way: “I am proud of myself too. And, I feel fortunate as compared to my friends who would like to live more independently but can’t because of a lack of resources or overprotective families.”
Marie recounts an exchange between one of Tracie’s friends that was living in a group home and the group home manager. He told his home manager that he wanted to be Tracie’s roommate in the new apartment building. Although it was Tracie’s dream to move in the apartment when it’s complete, Tracie confidently stated: “He can live down the hall if he wants, but I don’t want a roommate. I like my independence too much for that.” In fact, she adds that she wouldn’t get married just because she relishes living alone.
At night, Tracie watches old episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O. Tracie likes Jack Lord. In fact, she admits having a bit of crush on him as she smiles shyly at the question: “Do you find him handsome?” She adds: “He’s handsome, but I wouldn’t marry him either.” We all had a good laugh about that. As it turns out, Tracie is not only independent; she has a great sense of humour.
Tracie doesn’t like being told what to do, particularly in her home. Marie recalls that while she visited her once, she proceeded to tell her what to do about something. Tracie got so angry that she could barely speak. She pointed at a sign on her fridge door that said: “I’m the Queen. I make the rules!” Marie hit her forehead and said to herself: “Of course, nobody likes to be told what to do, especially someone as independent as my daughter.”
Like any daughter, Tracie prefers confiding in her best friend, Debbie, rather than talking with her mother about certain subjects. Tracie and Debbie spend a fair amount of time alone together contemplating life events. Tracie has other friends that she enjoys as well. The week prior, she entertained 10 people in her home. She served pizza and drinks and they all watched a movie. “We had a lot of fun together”, says Tracie.
Tracie keeps her home clean and tidy with some support from a housekeeper on a weekly basis. She is so neat, that her mother refers to her as the character portraying the neat freak on the show, The Odd Couple. “When we lived together in the family home, I used to refer to Tracie as my Felix Unger.”
Tracie doesn’t know me very well. She is soft spoken and isn’t always forthcoming with the words. While I have to elicit a few, she insists on choosing the right ones and makes her body language obvious if my paraphrasing is inaccurate.
When I ask Tracie what she wishes for in the future, she gives me that look that says, “What are you talking about?” Then she replies: “I like the way things are and I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. I’m just happy.”
Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community.
The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.