Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Brian Brosmer
Shelby Bauer, 24, nominated her father as Greenwood’s Dad of the Year because in her eyes — and in the eyes of many —he’s mighty special. Randy’s younger daughter, Samantha, was born with Rett Syndrome, a rare genetic neurological and developmental disorder that affects the way the brain develops, rendering the patient unable to walk or talk. Samantha, now 21, is wheelchair-bound and has been 100 percent dependent on others for all of her care since birth.
Though Randy and his wife, Tammy, took turns juggling tasks, with a bit of outside help, they managed to care for Samantha and both still work full-time. Then in September 2015, the family was dealt an emotional blow when Tammy’s mother passed away. She had been the primary caregiver to Tammy’s two blind, deaf, cognitively impaired brothers, both in their early 50s.
“The morning my mother-in-law passed away forever changed our lives,” Bauer says. “Not only did she leave a huge void in our hearts, but pragmatically my wife and I had to figure out how to care for her brothers.”
Bauer ultimately quit his job with the school corporation to become a full-time caregiver. It’s a move which has left him with zero regrets.
“We took a huge financial hit, but what I lack monetarily, I reap in abundant blessings,” Bauer says. “I’m not superhuman. I’m just taking care of my family.”
Shelby, however, is astounded by her dad’s modesty and kindness.
“He has more than stepped up to the plate,” she says. “Seven days a week he provides care for my sister and my uncles. But he also always makes time for my mom and me, even in the midst of all of his other responsibilities.”
Randy, however, views these responsibilities as a privilege rather than a burden, and he does so by soaking in the moments that those with perfect health may take for granted. For instance, though Randy’s youngest daughter can’t tell him with words that she loves him, he can feel Samantha’s love by looking into her eyes.
“These are the cards I was dealt in life, so I play my hand with Jesus by my side,” says Randy, noting that he draws his strength from his faith.
Married for 34 years and Greenwood residents for 20, the Bauers have great memories from the family vacation they took to Disney World six years ago through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“We’d never been to Florida. We’d never even been on an airplane, so it was quite an adventure,” Randy says. “When we landed and I stood up to get Samantha’s wheelchair, an elderly woman reached out, put a $100 bill in my hand, and whispered, ‘I hope you have a wonderful trip.’ She was one of many angels we encountered during that dream vacation.”
Though meeting Mickey Mouse was certainly magical, Randy feels the pixie dust of joy in every day he spends with his family.
“This is what I was meant to do,” Bauer says.