Untold Stories I - Uncle Richard
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
As I enter the world and gather pieces of my life like fabric squares to sew together into a beautiful quilted story, I am setting out to honor some of my earliest inspirations. Let’s start with my Great Uncle, Richard.
There are a lot of special things about Richard; we were born exactly 60 years apart, he has a remarkable knack for telling you the day of the week your birthday falls on, he survived the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire, he loves the song Downtown by Petula Clark, he enjoys any kind of action, suspense, or thriller films, and he is living with an intellectual disability.
As I was growing up, Richard was always a part of my life. When his parents died in the early 1980s he went to live with my mom and her parents. He still lives with my grandmother to this day. My family has always prioritized making sure that Richard could come along with us on trips or that we did the activities he liked. We went to the pool, to the zoo, on family trips to Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, and Disney. On Holiday strolls and visits to the humane society. We wanted him to have fun, to have access to us and to everything he loves. I have learned a lot about how people deserve to be treated and cared for because of him.
Part of the reason I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller is because I have always understood the power of positive representation. I often feel that representation of those living with intellectual disabilities is still deeply lacking. My Uncle has lived an incredible, miraculous life. He has experienced love, heartbreak, loss and joy. Richard has always had an affinity for cats, particularly white kitties. When we talk on the phone these days, he is very excited to tell me about his white kittens named Kenton and Olivia.
Richard is loving, funny, and always wants to have a call on holidays or birthdays so he can wish you well or sing a song. If he can see you in person for such occasions, it's best you have cake or chocolate for a proper celebration. I have yet to really see a show or film that has a character with an intellectual disability be as fully realized and developed as the other cast members.
On the topic of representation, when my parents and I went to see The Peanut Butter Falcon it was the first time I truly felt that filmmaking was taking a step in the right direction. It was a film about Zak's hopes, dreams, aspirations. A film about family. A film about love. Zack Gottsagen was an all star. It was exciting, it was emotional. It reminded me of the power filmmaking has. I write for people like my Uncle Richard, who has long loved drama and action films.
And I write so that maybe one day he'll get to see something Celia made on the television.