My counselor Joycelyn says I need to work on my communication skills, so I'll be upfront right off the bat. My name is Paul and I was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. How's that?
I'm twenty-four years old and live in a group home in Redrock, Arizona, a big city on the Colorado River. I've got a GED certificate from Redrock high school and I have a job and that's what I want to tell you about.
Mr. Ramirez runs Ramirez and Sons Pool Cleaning. He's been in business for seventeen years and he hired me six months ago. It was the first job I ever had an interview for. Boy, I'll tell you, I was nervous.
But he liked me and hired me right away. "Well get you helping the crew cleaning the pools," he said. "And take it from there."
Which I took to mean it was what they call a 'trial period' but I guess I did okay. Me and the crew got along great. There's Johnny, who's Mr. Ramirez's son. There's Nicko a black kid who's got a great sense of humor. There's Jody, a native American, from the Kooteini tribe up in Montana, and Newt, a white guy like me who's the oldest on the crew, maybe sixty or so. Even older than Mr. Ramirez. Anyway, we all get along great. They call me Pauli. I like it.
The best new, though, is what happened last month. After work Mr. Ramirez was driving me back to the group home. He picks me up and drops me off.
We parked in front and he asked, "Do you like cleaning pools?"
One of my life lessons that I learned at counseling was to always tell the truth so I said, "Yes, sir. I love it."
He smiled. "Well, I love having you work for me Paul." He doesn't call me Pauli like the guys on the crew do.
I didn't know what to say so I was just quiet and started whistling "She'll be coming around the mountain," a favorite song of mine.
"So I have a question for you."
I stopped whistling and turned my full attention to him. "What? Did I do something wrong?"
He smiled. "No. You're a good worker and that's why I want to promote you."
I'd heard of that before. It was a good thing. "Like to do what?"
"I'm getting busy with more work and don't have time to do the testing myself anymore. I need someone to take over my job and learn how to do it. How'd you like that?"
"Learn how test for chlorine? I knew chlorine was important because it keeps the water clean of harmful things. It was a lot of responsibility. "Learn like in go to school?"
"Yes. Go to school. They have a class on swimming Pool Maintenance coming up at the junior college in town. They'll teach you everything there is to know."
I thought about it. Like I said earlier, I'm not the bright bulb in the pack. "Will it be hard?" I asked.
Mr. Ramirez grinned and said, "You'll do just fine."
"Okay. I'll do it."
And I did. I took the class. It was for one hour a week in the evening after work for three weeks. Mr. Ramirez drove me and picked me up. After the last class I ran out to his truck.
"Look at this."
"What you got there, Paul?"
I showed a piece of paper. "Is's a certificate," I told him. "Look," I pointed, "It says I passed the class and I'm a certified pool maintenance technician." I grinned. "How about that?"
Mr. Ramirez smiled and shook my hand. "Congratulations."
We both looked at my certificate for a minute and then he said, "You know what? This needs a frame."
So, we went to the store, got a frame and when I got back to the group home I went inside and put it on the wall in my bedroom. It looked really good.
The next day Mr. Ramirez told the crew about my certificate. They all congratulated me. Then Mr. Ramirez said to the crew, "You know what this means?"
"They answered together, "A new family member."
And that's how I became part of the Ramirez and Sons family.
I've never been happier. I've a family at home where I live and sleep and my family with the crew where I work. Not many people can say that. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.