A Family’s Love Know No Limits
By Jared Acuna
Down Syndrome holds no barrier for one Warrenton native and his love for his family. Lovingly known as just “Uncle Ronnie” by friends and relatives alike, Ronnie is kept busy at the lively home of Steve and Teresa Petersen.
On just how a 67 year old uncle became part of her immediate family, Teresa revealed, “he is my dad’s brother and we have always lived near him. He was my neighbor after I got married and he lived with my grandparents next door. Ever since his parents passed away, he’s always been with family. He had been on and off with my husband and I for probably 20 years and now full time. Really the whole family has teamed together over the years to share in his care. Ronnie would spend a few months here and a few months there. We all love having him around.”
In the Petersen household, Uncle Ronnie has given everyone a new name. There’s Little Rat, Teeny Rat and he’s even dubbed himself as the Fat Rat.
Teresa explained the joke. Whenever she’d sneak chocolate or ice cream, those luxuries that all good moms need and crave, Ronnie would be quick to inform her husband, Steve.
“He would rat me out, that’s how the nickname started,” she laughed.
Uncle Ronnie has his own language for everything. It’s mostly catchphrases of his own design. Right before a weekend, for instance, Ronnie likes to brag about his Friday night treat. “Cold Bud Light! Oh yeah, Baby!”
The Petersen children have always enjoyed Ronnie’s company as well. Teresa’s youngest, Aundy, is practically inseparable with him. With increasing dementia affecting Ronnie more and more, that connection with Aundy is a light in his darkening world. They look after each other.
A big fan of cowboys, Ronnie takes his protective role as a gunslinger in the old west. He loves to shoot down bad guys with a thumb and forefinger pistol, blowing out imaginary gun smoke.
“His parents had always done everything for him until he came to live with Steve and I. He loved coffee and so I taught him how to make coffee and cook too. He was very high functioning. He used to be able to cook a whole breakfast, but his big passions were doing laundry and dishes. He was in charge and he felt so independent.”
“Oh, yeah, Baby!” Ronnie would say, among his many phrases. “25 cents a load!”
Teresa admitted with a grin, “I would pay him so he was earning money. It made him feel very important.”
As Ronnie continues to suffer from memory loss, one thing is sure to never go away. Among them are trips to the Alamo, rafting and of course, cold bud lights on Friday, Uncle Ronnie will continually be a recipient of all the love and attention that the Petersen’s can give him.