Posted February 4, 2019 | By Cynthia McFarland
Photography by Ralph Demilio
An up-close-and-personal look at how five local families handle daily life in 21st century America.
What makes a family? Ask a dozen different people and you’ll get a dozen different answers.
Modern families don’t always fit the Norman Rockwell portrayal of father, mother, brother and sister. Many of today’s families are far less “cookie cutter” but no less committed and loving.
We visited with five local families to discover what matters to them and how they deal with 21st century challenges.
Focus On The Positive
It’s a scenario no parent is prepared for. When her second daughter, Candra, was born with fluid on the brain, Linda Lofton watched as her newborn was rushed to emergency surgery.
When the infant was finally released from the hospital, it was with the grim prognosis that she would never walk, talk or feed herself. Linda and her husband were in shock. Despite also being diagnosed with autism, Candra proved them wrong. In time, she did everything doctors said she wouldn’t and even learned to read. She even went on to compete in the Special Olympics.
Then a seizure in her early 20s left Candra confined to a wheelchair. Linda’s marriage did not survive raising a special needs adult child, but she has tackled the challenge the only way she knows: with grace one day at a time.
A talented makeup artist for 25 years, Linda, an Ocala native, does makeup for weddings and special events, teaches makeup classes and works as a part-time receptionist at Meadowbrook Church.
Three years ago, Linda’s oldest daughter from her first marriage, Leah Taylor, had to give up her job in Atlanta and move back home for health reasons.
“It dramatically affected my physical well-being, and the medication I had to take affected my focus and overall health. I was in a lot of pain,” says Leah, who struggled with depression during this time of upheaval.
“I’m so grateful for my family and my mom,” says Leah, who is working on multiple writing projects. “My hope is to be independent and have a family of my own.”
Inspired by what she saw her mother doing every day, Leah started a small group at church for caregivers and parents of special needs children. The group helped parents connect with support networks and resources and also just gave them a brief respite.
Since she’s been home, Leah has been an enormous help to her mother and sister. When Linda works, Candra goes to ARC of Marion County, a non-profit that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families. The shuttle picks Candra up at 6:15am, and she’s there until 2:15pm. Leah watches her until Linda gets home from work.
Finding the right caregiver hasn’t been easy. Linda is hopeful that she can find someone to help a few hours a week, including taking Candra to physical therapy twice a week.
Constantly having to transfer Candra in and out of her wheelchair has taken a toll on Linda’s back.
“If I had a van with a lift, that would be a huge blessing, but I don’t have the finances to buy one,” says Linda, who is considering starting a Go Fund Me page for this goal.
Despite the fact that, as Linda puts it, “the struggle is real,” the three make it a point to carve out special time together.
“We usually go to Barnes & Noble once a week and spend a couple hours there,” says Linda. “Candra likes having a latte and a cookie; Leah and I use the time to plan our week together. This is our treat for the week.”
All through her life, Linda has been the upbeat person who helped others. To find herself in a position where she needs help has been both mentally and physically draining.
“There was so much help available when Candra was a child, but a lot of that is cut off when they get older,” notes Linda. “I would love to see more assistance for special needs adults over age 18.”
Linda chooses to focus on the positive and hasn’t given up hope that Candra will walk again—even if it’s with a walker.
“A few situations have seemed hopeless, but God has worked them out and He’s kept us sane,” she says with a smile. “Many people would have crumpled under this; staying positive is the only way.”
Dear Readers, since this article was written, Linda has started a fundrasier for the transportation Candra needs to get to work and have a better quality of life. You can Help Make Candra’s Mobility Miracle Come True by visiting their gofundme page.
Marion Healthy Living, “Modern Families.” February 2019. https://www.ocalastyle.com/modern-families/