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A Remarkable Father and Son Discuss Down Syndrome

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
October 19, 2020 3:09 pm

A Remarkable Father and Son Discuss Down Syndrome

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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October 19, 2020 3:09 pm

Aaron and Greg Tornquist return to the show to share their journey with Down Syndrome. Aaron (42) brings a zeal for life, a great sense of humor, and a spot on Elvis Tribute Hobby! 

Greg is an award winning songwriter who offers a lifetime of wisdom to families living with a special needs child ...particularly those with Down Syndrome


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Call 866-WINASIA or to see chickens and other animals to donate, go to Hey, this is Larry the Cable Guy, and you are listening to Hope for the Caregiver with Peter Rosenberg. And if you're not listening to it, you're a communist. Get it up. Welcome to Hope for the Caregiver.

I am Peter Rosenberg. This is the nation's number one show for you as a family caregiver. How are you holding up?

How are you doing? This is for those who are knowingly, voluntarily, willingly putting themselves between a vulnerable loved one and even worse, disaster. Maybe it's somebody that you take care of who's aging. Maybe it's somebody you're taking care of who has an addiction issue, who has an alcoholism issue.

Maybe you have a special needs issue in your family. My case, somebody who has to deal with the effects of trauma. And I'm in my 35th year as a caregiver.

It's hard to believe 35 years of this. And if you want to be a part of the show, 877-655-6755. With me always is the man who has a great mane but doesn't cause pain.

He is John Butler, the Count of Mighty Disco. John, how are you feeling? I am doing great. How about yourself though?

I am just lovely. Well, I got to have surgery this week. I got to have surgery this week. They're going to work on my knee. I have a bad knee. And I asked the doctor, I said, what did I do?

I mean, I don't remember doing anything really unusual to it. And he said, you turned 57. That wasn't good. It's clearly your fault. Clearly my fault.

This getting old is not everything it says in the brochure. So anyway, I got to deal with that. But they said that I will be right as rain. This is a fixable problem as long as my check clears. And I got to tell you, man, they've been hounding me for the money. Evidently, the orthopedic world is hard up because they've been hounding me for it.

Did you pay your part? Do you have your thing? And I'm like, yeah, I got it. It's okay.

I'm a little bit afraid of telling people when you come up lame out here in Montana, because when you come up lame as a horse out here, they shoot you. I didn't know if that was part of the treatment program or not. But anyway, hey, listen, this is October. October is a special month for a lot of reasons. We had a couple weeks ago we had on our friend Jenny with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And in the past, I've had a wonderful guest, a young man who I've known since he was just a kid. And his name is Aaron Thornquist. He and his father, Greg, are with us today.

And Aaron, I tell Aaron, he is the co-host with the most. And so, Aaron, you with me today? Yes, I am. I am. I am so glad to hear you.

Greg, you're with us as well. And Aaron, I got to ask you before we get into this. Now, you have Down Syndrome, but as your dad gets older, do you feel like you're becoming your dad's caregiver now? Yes, he is. He is a caregiver all the way. Now, what about you caring for your dad now? He's getting kind of old, aren't you, Greg? I'm 72 years young, yeah. Oh, my goodness. You've been caregiving for 35 years.

Aaron's 42. Yeah, you got me on this one. You've logged in more time on this one. Oh, do not.

Just more years. Aaron, one of the things I admire about you is how fiercely independent you are, and not only are, but desire to be, and how wonderful you live life. I mean, you do not sit on the sidelines.

You get out there and you live life and you embrace it to the fullest. You're an Elvis tribute artist. For those of you who've never met Aaron, Aaron is – by the way, Aaron, does it have anything to do with the fact that you are named after Elvis Presley? I mean, was that the case, that Elvis Aaron Presley? Is that part of it?

Is that why you grafted to it? Tell me how you got into the Elvis tribute artist business. Well, I first heard about Elvis had a middle name, my name. When I first heard the Christ one, I was 16. I didn't know his middle name was my name. I guess I got too connected on that.

But that's all it took to sell you, and you knew you were it for life, and you got it. You've got multiple – what's your favorite era of the Elvis? Do you like the younger Elvis, the middle Elvis, the heavyset Elvis? Which one do you like the best? Well, I like the Wahi King famous back in 1956. 1956. And what is your favorite song?

I like them all when he did that, 1956. Did you know – and your dad probably has met this guy, but we lost a guy that wrote one of Elvis' big hits, in fact, one of his big comeback hits in the ghetto, Mac Davis. We just lost him. Greg, have you ever met Mac Davis?

I never was fortunate enough to meet him, but I had a lot of admiration for him. Well, what an amazing song, and I think that – did you ever hear the story of how that song got cut? Well, I'm sure if I heard it, I forgot it. Well, evidently, Mac Davis was at dinner with Nancy Sinatra, of all things, and he said he's got this song called In the Ghetto, and he wanted Elvis to cut it.

He just couldn't get to his people. And Nancy Sinatra said, I'm going to be having dinner with him tonight. Let me have it, and I'll give it to him. And that's how it happened. I just heard that story the other day. I thought that was kind of cool. Show business.

Show business. Well, Aaron, let me ask you – Going back to what you were saying about Aaron and Elvis, what he was saying was he was so into Elvis that he made me take him to Graceland for his 16th birthday, right? And when we got there on the sign outside, that's where he and me, we both discovered that Elvis' middle name was Aaron. I didn't know it when I named Aaron Aaron, and he didn't know it until we got there. Ever since, Aaron has felt like he has ownership of the actual Graceland. Well, I'm not going to stand in the way of that one, Aaron.

I think you do as well. Last time he was there, he was standing in a line, and this perfect stranger said, oh, is this your first time to Graceland? And Aaron looked at him and said, I've been here more times than Elvis. Well, that's probably true that you were there more times. Last time I heard that you actually took a date to Graceland.

Is that true, Aaron? Yeah, that was my girlfriend Nicole's mom. And how did that date go, going to Graceland? How did that date go? Was that a fun date? Oh, it was amazing. We were staying at the place called the Graceland guest house. That's the whole thing, talking about the Graceland guest house. Right. Well, did she enjoy it as much as you did?

She is crazy like I was, yes. All right, well, Aaron, let me ask you a question. Okay. We have this thing called Down Syndrome Awareness Month. We've dedicated a whole month to recognizing individuals with Down syndrome and their families and so forth.

What does that mean to you? When you think about that, as somebody who has now lived with Down syndrome now for, you're 40, what are you, 41 or 42? Yes, I just turned 42 on my birthday.

Forty-two. So, as somebody who lives with Down syndrome, and you hear this, a Down syndrome, a whole month that we recognize individuals and their families with Down syndrome, what does that mean to you? It means a lot. I mean, there's a lot of Down syndrome people I know, I know some of myself, I made friends with back when I was first moved to Nashville. And while I was in New York City, I met one of the Down syndrome guy, he was on a TV show called Life Goes On, Chris Burke. Yeah, yeah, I remember him. You've met him.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. When I first saw him, I had my picture of me with him. My dad said, boy, Aaron, you are taller than he is. The National Down Syndrome Society was on the corner of Bond and Broadway, and I lived on Bond Street in New York, and so it was literally a walk to the corner up to the floor, and Chris Burke could not have been warmer and nicer with Aaron, he's a wonderful spokesman for everyone with Down syndrome, as is my son, Aaron. Well, I was going to say, Aaron, I think you're a wonderful spokesman for Down syndrome, because I think that you have this incredible zest for life, and I really appreciate that about you. You know, one of the things that your dad has said about you, Aaron, that stuck with me, he said this many years ago to me, and he said that you are a wise soul. A wise soul. I remember them saying that, yeah. It means a lot.

I've been called a wise something else, but it didn't end with soul by John, but John calls me that. It's off the air, off the air. It's a family show, John, but I think, Aaron, there are so many men out there who I think would weep openly to hear that their father considered them a wise soul, and I can think of no greater and higher thing to say about your son for a father to say about a son that he's a wise soul, and that to me, it always stuck with me, Aaron, that your dad thinks that way of you, and as he has been a tremendous father to you, and I've watched him through these many years with you, what are some things about your dad that you admire? Everything. Is there something specific that jumps out? That's a good answer, though.

No, that's a great answer. Is there something specific that sticks out? What is something specific that sticks out about your father that you really admire and that touches your heart? Well, he does everything for me. He taught me a lot of things about talking a little bit louder and taught me to be a man, good things when I've been told.

Those are meaningful things. Because I notice that you speak a lot. I mean, you certainly come on this show, and you do speak.

I mean, you get out there and you speak. Do you ever get nervous when you speak in front of people? No.

No, I never have. Did your dad help you with that, or is that just natural? It's natural. Well, it's listed as one of the biggest fears for people.

The most common thing is an anxiety over public speaking. That's just kind of something special, you know? Let me interject something about fear in Aaron. So, Aaron, one of the things that Aaron loves to do is go to the movies, and one of the kind of movies he likes that I don't and never care for are horror movies. And I asked him, I said, why, Aaron, do you like horror movies? And he said, well, dad, you just always taught me to face my fears.

Just throw those words right back at you. You know, that's actually hilarious. Well, Aaron, as you think about this month, and I don't look at just simply October as a month when we think about Down syndrome and the families and how it affects families, because I think it's a year-round type of thing. And it used to be something where I think a lot of people were afraid of, or people looked at this thing so much differently, and now they don't. They see there's such a love and an embrace and a normalization of so many that are living with this. What would you say to other families that are, you know, facing this maybe for the first time?

I mean, maybe they just found out that they have a little baby with Down syndrome. What would you like to say to those families? I would say just treat them just like anybody else.

I know that's what I would do. I would say just have your child get out and do things, opportunities out there, let them join a support group. You know, there are a lot of different support mechanisms in place now to help families with that and to come to grips with that.

They weren't there for your dad when he was a young man, when you were a little boy. And your dad has kind of helped blaze a lot of trails for a lot of folks. You know, Erin, by the way, did you know that the lady that is being right now, you know, whatever, they're going through the process of becoming a Supreme Court justice has a Down syndrome child. Did you know that?

No, I have not. What's her name? Her name is Amy Coney Barrett, and one of her children has Down syndrome. And I thought he was up there when they introduced her family and so forth. And so I don't know if that means that your dad would then be qualified to be a Supreme Court justice. I don't know about that. I don't know how he looks. I don't know how Greg looks at a black robe. Well, I have a black robe here, too, if I picture him wearing it.

If you see him wearing it, I'd like a picture of that, too, by the way, Erin. Well, Erin, you know, I am. Erin and the word judge. Erin's sister, who does not have Down syndrome, is a little older. She introduced Erin to a beautiful redhead and another woman who is beautiful blonde. And Amy, my daughter, said, so, Erin, which one would you choose? And Erin said, the Bible says not to judge, Amy.

I'd take both. Well, and that brings me to another point I want to have in just a little bit of time I have. Erin, you have something that's called your war room, and I know that when Gracie was diagnosed with, my wife was diagnosed with the coronavirus, you had her name up there in your room, and that's where you go to pray. You're pretty serious about it, aren't you? Yes, I do.

Yes, I do. It's under in the Bible Matthew 6. Tell me about what that says to you. Well, it says in that verse, it talks about if you go into the room, close the door, and you pray, and you get the reward from God. You have a lot of names in that room of yours, don't you, that you pray for? Yes, I've been praying a lot of people. I pray a lot of my family. I pray for anybody who got sick because of the coronavirus that's going on. I know I've been praying for you in your life. Well, and we know that, and I told that to Gracie.

In fact, your dad sent me the picture of the room there, and I showed that to Gracie when she was really sick with this, and she got tears in her eyes because it meant a lot to know that you were praying for her, Erin, and that, again, just reaffirms so much of what your dad says. You're a wise soul, but you're also a compassionate soul, and you feel deeply for folks that are hurting, and you have inspired more people, not because you're dealing with Down syndrome, Erin, just because you're a great guy. You're just a great guy.

Yes, I am. And the humility just oozes out of you, Erin. Humble as the day is long.

But rightly so. I get you. I work at BRICS, but I have a good friend there. His name is Ryan Pittman. He works at BRICS, and I met a lot of people in California, Karen, and I met one famous person who lives in California. Her name is Lauren Potter. She plays Becky Jackson in Glee. Yes, he's saying that he met Lauren Potter in California, the Down syndrome girl who was on the TV show Glee.

Right, right. Without Erin, before I switch to your father, I want to ask your father a couple questions, but I want to ask you one more question. Who's the most famous person that you've ever met?

Now, you can't use me, Erin. Who's the most famous person that you've ever met? Luke Bryan. Luke Bryan. You met Luke Bryan.

Ah, not bad, not bad. Where did you meet? Well, actually, I haven't met him, but I know he had a nace, but his nace had a Down syndrome, but he died of birth. Oh, okay. Well, now, who else have you met that's really interesting or famous that you've met?

Oh, boy. Billy Ray Cyrus. Yeah, that's one of them. Yeah, Billy Ray Cyrus. That's a pretty big name. Vince Gill. You've met Vince Gill? Yes, I have.

I've met Vince Gill. That is so awesome. Well, Greg, I got to... The clip I'm in is similar to a Down syndrome clip.

It's called Best Buddies Can See. I've been involved in that for a long time. Well, that is wonderful to hear. Well, could I take just a moment to ask your dad a few questions? Of course. Go ahead.

Give him a shout. Greg, I want you to know how much I appreciate very much you and Aaron in doing this with me. I saw a picture that came up on my phone that said, you know, you don't have Facebook and other things will come up and say this day four years ago. And it was a picture of you and Aaron and John that I took at the studios there at WLAC. And it was such a great moment because Aaron got to actually sit in and co-host with the show there in the studio. And I'm sorry we can't do that.

We have to do it by phone here in today's world. Aaron, of course, I'm a long ways away from Nashville, but John's still there in Nashville. But, Greg, when you think of this month, you know, I'm sure you have a lot of you and I have talked about this privately and you've talked about on the show. What are some thoughts that you have for families right now that are, as Aaron said, just just treat them, don't treat them any different, just love them. And unconditionally, there's some there's some dads out there right now that are facing this for the first time.

What are some things that you'd like to offer them? Well, Peter, I've been asked about Down syndrome now for four decades. And in this month, in these times, in these COVID days, COVID has impacted.

Let's just start with those fortunate enough to have jobs who have Down syndrome and now have lost their jobs or can't do their jobs. Aaron was a busboy and loved it. They just loved him and gave it up for COVID.

They closed down and it spiked here in Nashville. And so he lost that. He lost Special Olympics, which is huge with these guys. He lost going bowling. Aaron has bowled 233.

He's a good bowler and won awards with Special Olympics. That he lost that he basically lost everything so that we've come down to just hanging out. I have preconditions. So I would basically hang out and have so far been safe. But we are on our 72nd game of Monopoly. Have you ever played Monopoly so the other side has to go broke? We're on game 72 and Aaron is a killer. He's a head.

I've got to win two whole games to even get even with him. But we find we find I find joy or try to daily with simple chores and just, you know, the coffee still tastes good. The birds are still singing in the yard and trying to get through in my personal case by playing my guitars and writing. And but for those out there who are dealing with this for the first time, I do know in the last couple of years, I've helped the family through who had just what you said down syndrome child. They didn't know they're going to have actually had down syndrome child. And she's doing great now, but it wasn't easy at the first. And it's hard on the marriages with caregivers when they're suddenly thrust into that role. It's one thing to watch your parent age and then have to take care of them as they as they get old.

And I've done that as well. But it's a different thing to deal with with your life has suddenly changed forever. And there's someone who is always going to be with you and your wife or you and your girlfriend or whomever, the parent. And we'll always need family that those people who are starting out now with it have have a lot of lessons to learn. But the most important lesson is what my son said. Just treat them like they were normal. Expect them to be normal.

Don't don't baby them like a wounded sterile. You know, great words, Greg. And I, you know, you and I go back now 30 plus years. And I've gotten to know Aaron since he was just a little boy. And it means so much to me that you guys took the time to call in today. Aaron, can we do this every October, Aaron? Yes, it is. All right.

You mark it down. Greg Torquist, son Aaron Torquist, two of the most wonderful men you'll ever meet. And Aaron, you really are a wise soul.

But Greg, you're a wise soul as well. And I thank you for for blessing us with the show today. We've got to go. Our time is up. Love to you both. Have a great Sunday afternoon. This is Hope for the caregiver.

We'll be right back. Peter Rosenberger, have you ever helped somebody walk for the first time? I've had that privilege many times through our organization, Standing with Hope. When my wife, Gracie, gave up both of her legs following this horrible wreck that she had as a teenager. And she tried to save them for years.

And it just wouldn't work out. And finally she relinquished them and thought, wow, this is it. I mean, I don't have any legs anymore.

What can God do with that? And then she had this vision for using prosthetic limbs as a means of sharing the gospel, to put legs on her fellow amputees. And that's what we've been doing now since 2005, with Standing with Hope, we work in the West African country of Ghana. And you can be a part of that through supplies, through supporting team members, through supporting the work that we're doing over there.

You can designate a limb. There's all kinds of ways that you can be a part of giving the gift that keeps on walking at Would you take a moment and go out to and see how you can give.

They go walking and leaping and praising God. You can be a part of that at Hey, this is John Butler, producer of Hope for the caregiver. And I have learned something that you probably all know that Gracie, his wife, lost her legs many, many years ago and started a prosthetic limb outreach ministry called Standing with Hope.

And recently they ended up with a rather unique and unexpected partner. Peter had a conversation with Gracie and take a listen. Gracie, when you envision doing a prosthetic limb outreach, did you ever think that inmates would help you do that?

Not in a million years. When you go to the facility run by CoreCivic over in Nashville and you see the faces of these inmates that are working on prosthetic limbs that you have helped collect from all over the country that you put out the plea for and they're disassembling. You see all these legs, like what you have, your own prosthetic legs. And arms.

And arms. When you see all this, what does that do to you? Makes me cry because I see the smiles on their faces and I know, I know what it is to be locked someplace where you can't get out without somebody else allowing you to get out. Of course, being in the hospital so much and so long.

And so these men are so glad that they get to be doing, as one band said, something good finally with my hands. Did you know before you became an amputee that parts of prosthetic limbs could be recycled? No, I had no idea. You know, I thought of peg leg. I thought of wooden legs. I never thought of titanium and carbon legs and flex feet and sea legs and all that. I never thought about that. As you watch these inmates participate in something like this, knowing that they're helping other people now walk, they're providing the means for these supplies to get over there.

What does that do to you just on a heart level? I wish I could explain to the world what I see in there. And I wish that I could be able to go and say, this guy right here, he needs to go to Africa with us. I never not feel that way.

Every time, you know, you always make me have to leave, I don't want to leave them. I feel like I'm at home with them and I feel like that we have a common bond that I would have never expected that only God could put together. Now that you've had an experience with it, what do you think of the faith-based programs that CoreCivic offers?

I think they're just absolutely awesome. And I think every prison out there should have faith-based programs like this because the return rate of the men that are involved in this particular faith-based program and the other ones like it. But I know about this one is just an amazingly low rate compared to those who don't have them. And I think that that says so much.

That doesn't have anything to do with me. It just has something to do with God using somebody broken to help other broken people. If people want to donate a used prosthetic limbs, whether from a loved one who passed away or, you know, somebody who outgrew them, you've donated some of your own for them to do. How do they do that? Where do they find it? Oh, please go to slash recycle. slash recycle. Thanks, Gracie.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-24 20:03:54 / 2024-01-24 20:15:34 / 12

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