By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
The Garcias aren’t the kind of family that just sits around.
“We’re going all over the place,” Cynthia said with a laugh.
She and her husband Xavier met in 1975 while attending Notre Dame University. They returned to West Virginia and attended graduate school at WVU (she in English, he in theater). They got married in August 1981.
While they carried on their adult, responsible lives, they yearned to start a family.
Nine years later, in 1990, Carolyn Rose was born. Dominic Javier followed in 1992.
“We didn’t think it was going to happen,” she said. “When I got pregnant with Carolyn, it was a miracle. And Dominic was a bonus.
“We feel very blessed. We didn’t think we were going to have kids. We are so incredibly delighted. It’s just tremendous for us.”
Carolyn is “a busy girl,” Garcia said. “She’s a writer and singer and is very involved in lots of stuff. She’s won a lot of writing awards. She’s a good kid.”
She attended Notre Dame, just like her parents, and is involved in a two-year volunteer program called Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), in which she teaches third grade for a volunteer wage at a K-8 school in Phoenix in service to the church and Catholic education.
“She spent many years in Catholic education and wants to pay back some of what it has done for her,” Garcia said. “Her major was English, so this is out of her field in a way. She’s learning a lot. It’s challenging.
“She’s one of these people who is a learner and gets excited about different things. I don’t know where this is going to take her. She could go in any of a number of ways.”
Dominic also finds life challenging, but in a different way.
He has autism.
“He’s doing OK,” Garcia said. “He’s 21 this year, so this is his last year in school. He’s aging out.”
Dominic attends East Fairmont, where his dad teaches. That’s worked out well for the whole family, she said.
“Autism is a spectrum disorder. There is such a wide range that one person with autism could easily have very little in common in terms of abilities and needs as another.
“In terms of speech and cognitive skills, he’s at the low end. He stops at two- or three-item directions. He can go to a chair and put a book on a table, but that’s as far as you’re gonna get with him.”
On the other hand, he’s much higher when it comes to adapting behaviors, she said.
“Some have a low tolerance for things that are an assault on their senses, like sounds or smells. He has less than that. And while he might pass at a 3-year-old level in language, he is certainly able to do things physically a 3-year-old might not.”
He will need custodial care all his life, she said.
“But he’s easy to be with. He’s a combination of issues and needs and skills.”
When he was younger, she worked extensively with him to improve his abilities. When he got older, that slowed down but will probably pick up again after he leaves school, she said.
Having Dominic in their lives has been central to how the family developed.
“It’s something we take into account when we make decisions. We never do anything together unless he is with us. That’s just the way it is. We don’t like not having him around. He’s changed the way our family is organized, but not in a bad way.
“Everybody in the family feels he’s somebody we want to be around all the time.”
Like any mom, she felt a pang when her youngest turned 20.
“There were no more teenagers in the house. It’s funny. You think they’re going to be teens forever and then — boom — they’re not.
“You always see them as babies, toddlers, little kids. You see their whole lives and the time they were growing up. It’s a blessing. I can’t say enough how central having kids has been to my whole marriage, spiritual development and happiness.
“My kids are a blessing.”
The family is active in a lot of things, “just of our own foolish free will,” she said. Like church.
“Our faith is central to us. It’s who we are. Our parish family has always been so good to my kids. They pray for them. They’re a great asset of this community for us.”
The entire larger community has embraced Dominic, she added.
“You don’t necessarily have that kind of atmosphere in places that don’t place so much value on family and respect. I think we have that here, in our faith community and the larger community.
“We’re not hot shots. We’re not in a place where you have to be beautiful or brilliant for people to think you’re worth something. The sense of worth here is not tied to money.
“I see that. A lot of times it can be difficult to live in a place that’s economically depressed and has less to offer.
“On the other hand, when you’re in a community where everyone is brilliant and talented, where’s the place for someone who is not those things?
“This is a very good home base for someone like Dominic ... or for everybody.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.