The relatives who've helped Keith Desilets tackle tasks while living with cerebral palsy for four decades keep dying.
After his mom passed in 2009, Desilets' uncle stepped forward and helped him maintain his Round Rock home. But his uncle died with little warning two years ago, leaving a void in Desilets' life that has gone unfilled.
The result has been the deterioration of a house that the 40-year-old Desilets cannot maintain with his disability or with his modest salary as a groundskeeper with Round Rock Independent School District. The air conditioner needs new filters, the electric garage door no longer works, and Desilets' 2005 Honda Accord could use new tires and an oil change. Homeowners association fees are accumulating. Gunner, the husky-German shepherd that lives with Desilets, needs food and a visit to the veterinarian.
Normally reluctant to accept handouts, Desilets agreed to let down his guard and participate in the Statesman's Season for Caring program.
Because of his cerebral palsy, which is caused by damage to the brain, most often before birth, Desilets' right leg and arm are weaker than their left-side counterparts, resulting in him walking with a limp. His speech is choppy, with words often crawling from his brain to his lips.
Desilets and his mother were close. Mary Desilets taught her only child to drive and cook and guided him through traditional schools before his graduation from McNeil High School. She cautioned him to be wary of people who would take advantage of him because of his disability.
"I loved my mom very much and didn't want her to pass away," Keith says.
She also instilled in him the importance of work. This year, Desilets accepted a full-time landscaping job with Round Rock ISD at Westwood High and is responsible for the school's athletic fields. He previously collected Social Security disability payments, but now he relies only on his salary. His supervisor, Benjamin Garcia, says Desilets is a self-starter who shows up every day with a good attitude.
"He changed my life," Garcia says. "I see life different now with him."
Since his mom's death from a bad infection, Desilets has mostly lived alone with minimal socialization outside of the occasional friend or neighbor who stops by. He figures he'll be by himself on Christmas and again on his birthday. He's a New Year's baby.
Most of the items Desilets requested are more needs than wants. But there's one thing he wants for pleasure: a vacation.
Desilets has never been on one, and for that matter, has never stepped foot outside of Texas. He'd like to go somewhere warm, maybe Cancun or the Bahamas.
Make a donation to Season for Caring: community.statesman.com/donate or mail it in to Austin Community Foundation, c/o Statesman Season for Caring, 4315 Guadalupe St., Suite 300, Austin, TX, 78751. Make checks payable to "Statesman Season for Caring."
Read all the family stories: statesman.com/seasonforcaring