Wilma Dotson isn't living the life she dreamed of as a child growing up on the farm, but it's a life she's proud of. The Clovis grandmother, who once had top secret security clearance in Washington, D.C., has spent the last 25 years raising grandson Bobby Neumann III, who was born with Down's Syndrome.
What's it like raising a child with Down's Syndrome? It takes everything you've got and more. Everything you plan to do turns into what you have to do. When Bobby was born he couldn't eat from a bottle like most babies. I spent hours and hours trying to get milk down him. No one will ever know how hard I've worked at it, but when you get attached to your grandkids, they're just like your own children. When he was very small, I would hold him on my shoulder and dance around the living room. Every time I stopped, he would pat me on the shoulder, so I knew that he was aware and there was something there worth nurturing.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Getting Bobby through school made me really proud.
He started riding the bus when he was 3 years old. There was a time when he decided he didn't want to go to school, and I had to bribe him, but he got his high school diploma and was on the honor roll. We attended an honor roll banquet with all the other honor students. I thought that was an accomplishment. I was real proud of it. I am more proud of his few accomplishments than the many accomplishments of people to whom they come easily.
Tell me about your security clearance. I was married right out of high school and moved to Washington, D.C., with my husband, who was in the Air Force. I had never worked a day in my life except on the farm. I applied for a job that involved missiles and required security clearance because it was top secret. I got clearance pretty quickly and worked there four years. I had to quit when my husband was transferred. In retrospect, I should have kept the job and quit the husband.
What did you do on the farm? My mother kept a garden, so in the summer we would string beans and shell peas until our fingers ached and turned green.
My mother was English and very strict. She always made us use good manners and made us work hard. We fed the chickens, collected eggs, hoed the garden, you name it.
What was your childhood dream? When I was a child I wanted to be a singer or baseball player. My father was David "Dee" Walton. People still pull me over from time to time and tell me, "Your dad played the most beautiful music in the world." All his family was musically talented and they never had a lesson in their lives. Dad played the most beautiful fiddle. He was in a band that played at policeman balls, the VFW and there was a dance hall down on Mabry called La Vista where they played. I never played an instrument, but I sang in a band at school. We did Hank Williams songs and country music for school events and assemblies. I love music and I love to sing. I also loved playing softball in school and pitched a mean fastball.
— Compiled by Tonjia Rolan, CMI staff writer