Randall Donner
Randall Donner, Communications Senior Professional

Siblings Find a Home Together at Mosaic

Loving grandparents stepped in to raise Nathan and Riri Gray when their parents abandoned them at a young age. For nearly 30 years, their grandmother was their guardian and was devoted to providing a good life to the two. But she developed dementia, and soon after, their grandfather needed life-saving heart surgery. He found himself feeling lost, not knowing what to do.

The state asked Mosaic to step in. Through emergency placements, Nathan (then 29) and Riri (then 36) moved into separate Mosaic homes. It was the first time in their lives they had lived apart.

Nathan had the good fortune to move into a home where Jackie Lang was part of the direct support team. Although he has autism and is not much of a communicator, Jackie said, “He had a story worth listening to.” Once Jackie met Riri, she wanted to help the two of them to live together once again.

“I’ve seen many families pulled apart, so I wanted to get them back together,” Jackie said.  Family is important to her—she has eight brothers herself.

Jackie applied to become a provider in Mosaic’s host home program, called Mosaic at HomeⓇ. She was excited when she was approved for the work, and soon Riri moved into Jackie’s home. Jackie talks about Riri as a “girlie girl.” “She is more girlie girl than I am,” Jackie said. “She loves getting her hair done, her hygiene is perfect, she likes to be in the kitchen, and she is a sweetheart, very loving.”

Very expressive, Riri has a ready smile for whoever is talking to her. Jackie said Riri was rather shy in the group setting, but has “really opened up” since moving in. She credits the one-to-one time they spend together for helping bring about that change.

Once Riri moved in, Nathan was able to come visit and do an occasional overnight (thanks to Mosaic donor gifts to help with the expenses). He moved in with Jackie about six months after his sister had. The two get along like siblings do, Jackie said, sometimes like teenage siblings who bicker.

But Nathan also has a caregiving aspect, wanting to take care of his sister’s needs. Jackie calls him a true gentleman who prepares his sister’s lunch before they head to a day program and likes to set the table for her. If he feels something isn’t quite right, he will check on her to make sure she’s OK.

Back in the group home, Jackie thought Nathan’s shyness made him retreat to his room and put on his headphones. But, she has now learned, it is because too much noise bothers him. She’s also learning more about his hidden talents—like an ability to play the piano, draw beautifully and a knack for putting things together (like a train set he quickly completed assembling after Jackie had struggled for more than 30 minutes, she said). 

The siblings are pretty easy to live with, Jackie said. “They’re not demanding. They’re very calm and comfortable.” Both have their own likes and dislikes, she said. Riri has more than 200 Barbie dolls, and her collection continues to grow. Nathan likes to sing, she said, which has only come out since moving into her home. Having participated in track during high school, he still likes to run, she said. Both Riri and Nathan like older movies and TV shows like The Brady Bunch and The Jeffersons, Jackie said, which she believes is a reflection of being raised by older grandparents.

The two also blend nicely into Jackie’s natural family with her three children and grandchildren. She predicts a long-term future with Nathan and Riri.

“I see them being a presence in my life forever,” Jackie said. “Lord, those are my babies. I can honestly say I love them. I never want to give them up.”

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