My Love Affair with Jude Del Pozo Martinez Bauer: The Rest of the Story

My Love Affair with Jude Del Pozo Martinez Bauer: The Rest of the Story
In August 2016, our daughter Rachel and Alberto, her husband, traveled up from Memphis with their two children Noel and Jude, to visit my wife and myself in Dayton, Ohio.

One afternoon during their stay, I was sitting in my favorite reading chair beside our kitchen area and glancing over my shoulder I saw seven-year-old Noel playing and beside her on the floor was her three year old brother Jude. Jude was in a trance – fixated on the screen of his Leap Pad computer tablet, his “most favorite toy in the world”.

Seeing Jude there triggered something inside me. We’d always gotten along well. He would come to me, and I’d pick him up, cuddle with him and carry him around. He enjoyed being gently tossed in the air or allowing me to hold his legs as I raised him so he could touch the ceiling. He loved the water and playing him in the pool was always a great time. But something told me that I hadn’t really reached out to connect with him at his level. 

Many times I’d wondered… what would happen to him when he grows up? How much would his limitations affect him? Will he ever live independently? Who would care for him when he outlived his grandparents and parents? I knew too little about the life of an adult with Downs Syndrome and often thought that I should learn more.

Since Jude’s birth, I asked my friends and colleagues in Family Medicine about kids and adults with Down Syndrome. I appreciated there is a wide range in their abilities, and that no two people were really alike. For instance, I learned of a young man with Down Syndrome who worked in a medical school’s department of Family Medicine. Still, I couldn’t helping wondering what kind of life Jude had before him.

Mostly, I just loved him to pieces. How can you not love this child? You can see the vitality in his eyes in this picture. He was a delight!

Now watching him play on the kitchen floor, I recognized that a part of me held back a bit from fully engaging with him. Held back is perhaps too strong; it was more that I was concerned. But I did appreciate that the distance between us would not close if my uncertainties interfered with my spontaneous responses to him.

I wanted no reservations. I wanted to love him unconditionally just as I did all our children and grandchildren.

How, in this moment, was I to make that happen? Would my doubt and reservations blunt my ability to be present to him and love him? Well, there’s no time like the present, I thought, let me make a real effort to connect.

Who knows where these impulses come from? As in the country-western song … “Timing is everything”, I decided … we were in the same room and very near one another, so the time must be now; whether he was ready or not!

My years of counseling experience have taught me that you have to reach out to others where they are. Jude was lying on the floor, immersed in his Leap Pad. If I was going to reach out to him, I need to get down on his level, literally.

I knew that once Jude was in his Leap Pad Trance, he could be there for a long time. Nonetheless, I got down on my belly, and positioned myself about 3 feet away from him; head to head.

At first he didn’t seem aware that I was there. It was a good 15 minutes or so before he looked up, eyed me briefly, and then went back to his Leap Pad.

A few minutes later, without looking up he lifted his right hand, keeping his wrist and elbow on the floor, and waved hello.

I really wish I had this all on video. It was a priceless gift of understatement on his part. It made me wonder if he had inherited his grandpa’s minimalist style of humor.

Somehow through this fleeting interaction, we forged a deep connection. How do I know that? Let me tell you the rest of the story.

For many months our daughter and her husband had struggled to get Jude to sleep at night. His bedtime routine had evolved into an elaborate ritual that often involved his father, putting him into the car and driving him around Memphis hoping that he’d fall asleep. It worked but only after quite some time. This added a great deal of stress to their lives; Rachel and Alberto had to rise early each morning to get Noel and Jude ready for school and day care before they themselves headed off for a full day of teaching.

On the same evening of Jude’s and my floor-level encounter, I was again sitting in my favorite reading chair as the bedtime ritual began.

Rachel and Alberto tried to put Jude to bed in the bedroom with his sister. As usual, he was having none of it. Preparing for round two, they brought him downstairs.

“Do you want me to put Jude to bed?” I asked

Not wanting to burden me, they said,”No, we’ll take him in the card and drive around the neighborhood”

Give him to me”, I said, “put him in my arms.”

Reluctantly they did so-clearly seeing me as victim of wishful thinking, and departed for another wing in the house, leaving us alone.

Jude wiggled and squirmed and twice tried to crawl over me to get to the floor and make his escape. Each time I simply said…”No, Jude you're staying with me”.  Hugging him gently I made it clear that I would not let him go.

After the second try, he settled down and fell asleep. He was out like a light. It was over in less than 15 minutes. You can see in this picture the reward for my efforts.

When Rachel and Alberto peeked into the room, they were quite stunned to see Jude asleep with no sign of a fight.

I can’t fully explain what happened but I believe that the connection Jude and I formed earlier that afternoon prepared the way.

The end of this story is dramatic and heartbreaking.

A few weeks after the visit Jude died.

He developed an infection that turned into sepsis. It put a swift and tragic end to his brief life. Our whole family was devastated.

We will always miss Jude. Even while I grieve his loss, though, I also feel so thankful for that impulse I said yes to that summer afternoon.

Each time I remember it, I realize that now is always the right time to act on an impulse to love. No matter when you read this; take the time today to connect with and love those who you hold dear.

About the author

Laurence (Larry) Bauer is a father and grandfather who cherishes family. He is chief executive officer of the Family Medicine Education Consortium ( He is a “healing warrior” who enjoys building a community of people and organizations working to create a primary care driven system in the U.S. He’s an active supporter of all those in the “healing community”. He is an occasional writer who is inspired by the mysteries of life. He enjoys reading, running, basketball and gardening.  He can be reached at [email protected]

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