In this story of a father who takes care of his autistic adult son, reporter Maureen O’Hagan adroitly sketches the dilemma caused by longer life expectancies for people with developmental disabilities. The father, Ron Johnson, must have emergency bypass surgery to save his heart, while autistic son Ronny remains healthy but in need of constant care.
In this 2,100-word piece from The Seattle Times, O’Hagan covers a lot of ground, moving in and out of narrative mode. She manages to portray the agony of a father unable to fulfill his duties and unwilling to ask his other children to care for their brother. He ponders his options as he collects clippings about abuse of patients by care workers, and discovers that government funding for a group home will not cover costs for those able to meet his son’s extensive needs.
O’Hagan’s simple chronological structure gives us enough background to understand the double crisis that results from Ron’s heart condition. And her portrayal of his grief and guilt make it clear that moving Ronny to a group home may be inevitable but will not provide any pat resolution to this story.
Read “Aging Father Agonizes over Fate of His Son,” by Maureen O’Hagan