High up on Beech Mountain, brothers R.L. and Ben lived on the family farm with their momma and daddy. The elevation reaches up to 5,605 feet and the town of Beech Mountain, the highest town east of the Rocky Mountains, has a sparse 145 households.
Sixty-six-year-old R.L. says his parents were aged when he was born. He and Ben, two of seven siblings, are developmentally disabled. “We lived with our parents because we can’t make it by ourselves.”
Ben, the older of the two at 68 years old, remembers being sent home from school because the teachers told them they couldn’t learn. “We helped Momma and Daddy on the farm,” he remembers. “We worked taking care of the livestock.” The family raised goats, sheep, chickens, and pot-bellied pigs.
When winter came to Beech Mountain, the homeplace chimney stayed stoked – it was the only heat the family had. The brothers helped to keep wood supplied. Both remember how cold those days were. Living on the mountain was hard, they said. But their parents took care of them providing a good home until they passed.
As adults, the brothers both began to lose their eyesight. Ben has had surgery and can see better than R.L., but both are legally blind.
“After Momma and Daddy died, we were taken care of by our sister,” Ben says. But her health concerns made the task of caring for her brothers difficult, and she sought help.
In 2007, R.L. and Ben were the second and third residents admitted to one of Baptist Children’s Homes’ new developmental disabilities homes in Zionville – Joy Cove’s Three Forks Home.
Although the men are very close, they have different interests. Ben is a country and western enthusiast. He loves western movies, Loretta Lynn is his favorite country singer, and he is proud to show off his holster and two shiny silver toy six-shooters.
The brothers spend time watching television together – Ben watches and then tells R.L. what is happening. While Ben likes cowboy shows where the stars ride horses and shoot guns, R.L says his favorites are old episodes of Little House on the Prairie “cause it ain’t got violence.”
R.L. was baptized last year by Union Baptist Church’s pastor Vernon Eller. The local Zionville church is supportive of the residents at Joy Cove’s two facilities – Three Forks and Lindsay Homes.
“I asked Jesus to come into my heart,” R.L. says. “I was baptized. They put me in the water and then got me back out of the water; that’s all I know.”
Ben says, “R.L. wanted to be baptized. It was outside at the church – they baptized him in a pool.”
“Yes, it made me feel real good,” R.L. adds smiling. “Ben was baptized a long time ago. I needed to be baptized, too.”
The men like to draw pictures and color. Loose white paper and drawing pads scattered around each of their rooms have images made by the brothers with colored markers. Ben use a variety of colors, but R.L. draws all his pictures with a red marker.
R.L.’s pictures are identical – each time the same. He draws red lines horizontally across the center of a page and then draws lines vertically in the center on the paper forming a cross. At the base of the cross – the bottom half of the paper – he draws the same four stick figures with raised arms. The central figure has a line drawn to the center of the cross. “They’re talking to God,” R.L. says. “God is talking to each one of them.”
R.L. says he spends time talking to God. “God can do big stuff. I have a lot of faith.”
Both Ben and R.L. spend their days being active. They each keep their respective rooms tidy and help with chores in the home. The two agree that the other men living in the home are their friends and the women next door at Lindsay Home are “our friends, too.”
Ben looks out for his younger brother. He takes his role seriously helping R.L. when they are out shopping or going to restaurants. “I talk to R.L. when he is sad. I help him whenever I can. I’m his big brother.”
Three Forks Home has been the perfect place for the two siblings. Their parents lovingly cared for them for much of their lives, but after they passed, their sons needed a safe, loving place to call home.
“I know Momma and Daddy would be happy. The food is good here, it’s warm in the cold snaps, and it’s a good place to live,” Ben says.
R.L. agrees, “It’s great living here with Ben.”
R.L. and Ben's story was originally featured in the May 2014 issue of Charity & Children.
Learn more about Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina's Developmental Disabilities Ministry at www.hereismyhome.org