Five Years Later, An Idaho Couple Remembers Their StoryCorps Experience

Jun 10, 2013

Jeff and Brenda Wilson
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

The national recording project known as StoryCorps returns to Boise today.

It was May 16, 2008 when Jeff Wilson brought his wife Brenda to the mobile recording booth - an Airstream trailer - outside Boise City Hall.  He wanted to talk about his son, also named Jeff, who was born with Down syndrome.  He talked about the 25-year journey they had taken, since their son was first diagnosed:

“I’m so proud of what he’s been able to accomplish and what part you have played in all that, it just, it’s phenomenal, it really is,” says Jeff.  “Thank you sweetheart,” says Brenda.

Tens of thousands of stories like this have been recorded and archived across the country.  As we begin a month of StoryCorps in Idaho, we caught up with the Wilsons to find out what's happened with their son since sharing his story five years ago:

“The big change is that he [their son Jeff] turned 30,” says Brenda Wilson. "And he’s still active in Special Olympics, works with his dad, works at the YMCA downtown, which is a really great place for him to be because he’s so social and he has a lot of acquaintances there.  He’s doing well, he’s doing great.”

“And still living on his own, with his dog buddy,” says Jeff Wilson.

Here's part of our conversation...

Q. Jeff, back in 2008, you asked your wife a lot of questions that day in the StoryCorps booth and you wondered what it would be like if your son Jeff had not been born with Down syndrome.  Brenda, here’s what you said than:

“Yeah, I do, kind of, you know, now and then I’ve thought about it but I think he’s exactly who he’s supposed to be,” says Brenda.  “Yeah,” replies Jeff.  Brenda adds, “I think the universe gives you what you need.”

Is that still true today?

A. “Absolutely, absolutely,” says Brenda, “he is exactly who he is supposed to be and he’s here for all of the people that need him to be here.”  “I would have to agree,” says Jeff, “I used to say if I could change him, I would, but as time goes by I don’t think so.  He is who he is and he’s the best friend I’ll ever have.”

Q. Back in 2008, Jeff, you asked Brenda if she worries about your son’s future and here’s what she said:

“Oh yeah, oh yeah.  I think we just have to have faith though, you know,” says Brenda. “What I would like for him, what I would want for him is that he could always be happy, and fulfilled, that he could always be safe and that he could have a partner.”

So it’s five years later, how do you two feel about Jeff’s future?

A. “You know, I think you take it day-to-day,” says Brenda. “I think that he’s in a good place, he’s in a house where he’s going to be able to continue to live and I think his life will continue to be good.  It’s hard to think about when we’re not here anymore, but you can’t really dwell on that all the time, you have to just do your best to take it day-by-day and prepare and make sure things are in place where they need to be.  As far as his partner, he met a girl four years ago from Orlando and they have been a couple ever since.  Of course, it’s a little difficult because she’s in Orlando and he’s in Boise but they see each other once a year and have a great time, talk to each other on the phone constantly and keep in touch and so that kind of helps with that aspect of his life, having her for a girlfriend.”

Q. Would you take part in StoryCorps again?

A. “Probably would,” says Brenda, “it was a pretty moving experience, I mean my husband said some things that really touched my heart.”  “I surprised her,” says Jeff, “she didn’t know I’d done it.  I made the appointment, then came home and said we’re gonna go down and do that StoryCorps thing and I explained to her what I thought it was all about.  And she said well, what are we going to talk about?  And I said I want to talk about Jeff.  It just happened and it was quite emotional, by the time we were done, I was pretty much a mess, but in a good sense.”

Q. So how has StoryCorps changed your life in the past five years?

A. “When I think of what it did for Brenda and I,” says Jeff, “and my outlook on Jeff [our son] at that time and since that time, it was almost like some kind of short but very intense and very useful therapy of some kind.” “That’s a good way to put it,” says Brenda.

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