Once upon a long time ago in the 1980s and 90s, I became friends first with Curt and then Ana Warner. Ana and I were very close. We used to talk daily and went back and forth to each other’s homes all the time. Our children overlapped with Jonathan and Noelle being roughly the same age. Then the twins were born – Austin and Christian. Because of their three babies, I began to see less of Ana and Curt – understandably.
Ana and Curt are kind and gentle although both mentally tough. But as the twins grew it seemed that they were much more challenging to raise than other children. Curt and Ana have written a book about their family’s journey. So what I share here is not being kept as a secret.
We used to belong to the Pro Club in Bellevue. There was one awful time when staff actually asked the Warners to leave because their children were not quiet enough. Can you imagine packing your children up in front of other diners. Ashamed. Thinking that you had not been able to control them well enough to satisfy your own health club cafe.
Not long after the twins were diagnosed with autism.
I remember spending an afternoon, and Ana pulling rocks out of their mouths. They liked to chew rocks. During one of the last times I saw the family before they moved to Camas, the twins were fascinated by me because they thought I was Pocahontas from the Disney movie. My hair was in a braid. And by then they could recite everything about Disney movies.
The sad part of the story is that the Warners became increasingly isolated. They spent all of their time focused on the family. Determined not to institutionalize the boys or remove them from the home. Without enough help over the years, Ana and Curt raised Jonathan and the twins. And then because they still had more love to give – they adopted Bella. We lost touch. I am still so sad about that.
After their book came out, I reconnected with the Warners. But still had not read it. One day i got the audiobook and started driving. I had to pull over from hyperventilating. I listened to it when running and had to stop because the air was gone out of me. The worst part was when Austin accidentally burned their house down because he thought he was Pinocchio and needed to smoke himself out of the whale’s belly.
I called Ana and drove down to see them. When she opened the door I ran in and hugged her. We just looked at each other and the time melted away. Curt shooed us out so that we could go to lunch together – something Ana rarely does as the boys are a full time around the clock job for her and Curt. When we came back Curt, Ana and I sat on the couch and just started talking. The boys would come over and ask for their Disney movies. Like 100 times. Christian was in the stairway. Holding his breath to clicking sounds. Over and over and over again. As Curt gently told him to stop. Over and over and over again.
As we sat there, and I watched all of this and felt the absolute chaos of the situation all i could feel was the love in the household. The absolute and total love of Curt and Ana.
They told me of their hopes to one day build a dream home for the boys and two others so it could be self funding. And so that they would not worry about what would happen to the twins after they (Curt and Ana) were no longer able to care for them. They had been working towards this for years. And so I said – I want to help. And this beautiful couple said ok.
Within the next few months I purchased a large house in Ellensburg that they chose. It needed to be converted into a group home with 4 individual bedrooms and bathrooms and a house parent suite. It is in a rural area on 6 acres. Next to the Trellis Center – a nonprofit organization that provides work educational opportunities for those with autism. During the days Austin and Christian would be going there to learn how to grow produce and take care of other farm chores and eventually bring their produce to market.
Curt and Ana took the lead in designing and working with the builder to rehab the home. I paid the bills. I thought it would take several months. It took a year and a half. And then finally in February 2021 – Curt, Ana, Austin, Christian and Bella took up residence and began the process of transforming the house into a home largely using up the funds from their gofundme page to buy the furniture and fixings.
Today we took the first step in transferring ownership. Curt and Ana paid for Christian’s share. And I gifted them Austin’s share. I still have two more shares that will be purchased once they find a good fit for the other two housemates.
As for the Trellis Center – even though it’s a 501(c)(3), that doesn’t mean it’s free. I am gifting tuition for the next year for both of the twins.
Then in May, the Seahawks decided to help. When a player breaks a team rule a fine is collected. That fund o’ fines will now provide monies to convert the two car garage into an apartment for the house parents which is necessary to provide them with down time under governmental regs.
Now if only houseparents can be secured!
Last week the Warners sent me a picture of each of the twins – Austin was playing with some type of paddle at Trellis Center and Christian was raking weeds. They looked so happy that I started to cry.
We never thought this story would be written or shared. For the past two years, I asked Curt and Ana to keep this private. I didn’t want people to know about such an intimate arrangement. And wanted to respect their privacy. But as time has gone by we all agreed – why not. Why shouldn’t we share this story. So that perhaps people could be inspired to reach out. To love each other. To help one another.
My next dream is for Curt and Ana to actually go on a vacation lasting more than 6 hours alone together. One step at a time. One step forward. In love.
Photo: Curt, Christian, Austin, Ana on the porch in Ellensburg.