Hardest job you’ll ever love
By Allie Hendricks

Junior Morgan watches television while his mom, Cathy Morgan, makes tea in the kitchen. When they don't go out, their evenings are relaxed as they spend time at home with their dogs (from left) Gabby, Missy and Cody.

Cathy Morgan teases her son, Junior Morgan, as they do a picture search game together, making bunny ears with her fingers behind his head. “I found the bunny!” she says.
Junior laughs. “Ah, Mimi!” he says affectionately.

Junior, 39, has Down syndrome and lives with his mom, Cathy, 70, in the home she bought 30 years ago in Bowling Green. Cathy’s encouragement of Junior to help with laundry, cooking and other household chores has made him self-sufficient and their relationship symbiotic. 

“(Junior’s) like, ‘If you help me, I’ll help you,’” Cathy says. When Cathy asks him if he wants to clean his room each Sunday, suggesting they could always do it later, Junior is easily on board to help. He seems to have inherited the sweetness his mother demonstrates.

Cathy raised Junior as a single mom after divorcing his father two years into their marriage. She received some help from her first husband’s family, her oldest daughter from that marriage, and a babysitter, but Cathy was the main caregiver for Junior.
“The first 10 years was like hair pulling. It was almost too much,” Cathy says. “But after he got, like, 10, he calmed down. It wasn’t bad at all after that.” Junior can be left alone at home now when his mom goes to clean other people’s houses during the day.

Cathy didn’t know what Down syndrome was when Junior was diagnosed at 2 months old. The nurse suggested institutionalizing him, but Cathy rejected the idea. She started taking him to an early intervention program, where they helped him learn things such as walking, which he couldn’t do until he was 3.

“I kinda knew it was not going to be the easiest job I ever had,” Cathy says. “But it’s going to be the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

In the past, Junior spent time in Best Buddies and programs at the Down Syndrome of South Central Kentucky Buddy House, but Cathy says he outgrew them. Cathy supports the things he is interested in, including guitar, crochet and CrossFit. They also eat out together, frequently getting ice cream.

“I always take him where he asks because I know he doesn’t have any other way to get around,” Cathy says. “I love doing stuff with him.”

Cathy wants to live with Junior for the rest of her life because of the good relationship they have. If Junior ever wants to move out, she says he’ll have to take her with him.
“I’d say we pretty much are best friends,” Cathy says. “I’m thankful I got him.”

As Cathy makes breakfast, she asks Junior if he wants to help with different tasks, such as turning sausage and making scrambled eggs. To avoid being bossy, she asks instead of telling Junior to help. “I’ll let him make up his mind about stuff,” Cathy says. They eat breakfast together each morning, waking up an hour before she needs to leave to clean houses.

Junior slowly backs his golf cart out of the shed as Cathy watches. He only drives it in the yard, cautiously switching between the gas and brake. Cathy occasionally drives the golf cart five miles on backroads to take Junior to Chaney’s Dairy Barn to get food and ice cream.

Cathy and Junior do a picture search game titled ‘Search for Santa.’ Cathy jokes with Junior as they search. “Why’d you look at me when I said to look for a cow?” Cathy asks. They also play Yahtzee and Bingo together.

Cathy helps Junior get ready to practice guitar. She turns the recliner, sets up the stand and music, adjusts his light and tunes the guitar. She also organized the folder with his music so he wouldn’t have to flip pages. “I played that really good,” Junior says.

Junior practices guitar for about 45 minutes every night. He also attends a weekly lesson. Because learning the chords helps him with memory and fine motor skills, his mom hopes it will help him avoid getting dementia. “I think keeping him busy will prolong it,” Cathy says. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 30% of individuals with Down syndrome have dementia in their 50s.

Junior participates in a workout in the 4:15 p.m. class at CrossFit Old School. He joked with the coach and encouraged the other people working out during the class. Junior has been going to CrossFit every day but Wednesday and Sunday for about 6 years. “I love coming here,” Junior says. “I’m working hard.”

Cathy always waits outside while Junior does CrossFit just in case he needs her, going inside at the end of the class to walk him to the car. Since Junior started doing CrossFit, Cathy has noticed his boost in confidence. “Everybody here doesn’t look at his disabilities. They look at what he can do,” Cathy says. “They don’t cut him no slack.”

Junior looks for a new book of inspirational quotes while at Barnes and Noble. After people told him how much they loved a quote he posted two years ago, he now posts one on Facebook each night, picking from one of the 50 books he owns. He marks in his books which ones he’s already posted.

Cathy and Junior talk about a post in Junior’s Facebook feed while eating dinner at Olive Garden. They often go out to eat and shop together. ìIf I suggest something, he’s all for it,” Cathy says. “Our relationship) is the best.”