Marriage vows typically state “for better or for worse.”
Cathi and Rob Watson have certainly experienced both ends of the spectrum.
They both light up when talking about the joys of grandparenting. But the road of their 41-year marriage took an unexpected turn six or seven years ago when Rob began experiencing what doctors now say was likely a series of strokes.
In 2016, a massive stroke took its toll and Rob, now 70, became a permanent resident of Sanborn Gratiot Memorial Home.
“His strokes have destroyed the verbal and sometimes the visual comprehension part of his brain,” said Cathi. Though he can hear, Rob’s brain cannot decipher what people are saying to him when they speak to him. And though he can see, his brain doesn’t always register what it is seeing. For example, someone in his condition might walk into a busy road not comprehending that passing vehicles are a danger, or walk into other people or objects, not recognizing that the object is an obstruction to them.
Those disabilities make Sanborn a safer place for Rob to live.
A graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Rob is a talented artist who formerly worked for a number of St. Clair County businesses in advertising and marketing. Prior to his stroke brain injury, while working for himself, he was hired to design the Sanborn Gratiot Memorial Home logo.
The logo is still in use today.
“He worked really hard,” said Cathi of her husband, who held positions at Thorpe Printing, E & A Credit Union and Citizen’s First Bank before going to work for himself full-time.
Rob was also an involved member of the community and dedicated a lot of his spare time to a favorite cause: Pheasants Forever. A life-long hunter, Rob was president of the organization for 25 years.
“His favorite thing to do was hunting,” said Cathi. “Through Pheasants Forever, he learned a lot about wildlife habitat and rebuilding habitat.”
The television program “Michigan Out of Doors” once shot a program that featured Rob and his love of hunting and preserving wildlife habitat.
Though he can no longer go hunting, Rob is able to watch sports on television, and that remains one of his favorite activities.
“I like to watch sports on TV,” he said. “Bill, the assistant supervisor at Sanborn, printed out the Michigan football schedule and the Michigan basketball schedule and the Pistons schedule for me.”
And though he cannot comprehend vocal conversation, he still has a strong reading comprehension, so most of his conversations with people take place using written notes. His wife carries a quick-erase white board with her so she can ask him questions in writing.
“One of the other Sanborn residents, a man named Gary, gives me his Times Herald every day,” Rob said. “Without that, I would have been lost. I can read the local news and sports and obituaries and the weather.”
Rob is also very complimentary of the staff at Sanborn.
“When I first went there, I was in pretty rough shape, but I am a lot better now,” he said. “I told my doctor, sometimes I feel like I’m normal again.
“Sanborn is a great place. They have a great staff. It’s a tough job for the staff. And most of the residents help take care of each other. But the staff, they do a lot. If I have any questions, they help me.
“Two staff members are my very favorites – Anna and Heidi. They help me the most. If I ever have any questions, they help me out. I told Betty the boss they should give Anna and Heidi an employee of the month award.”
In a full-circle twist, Rob and Cathi’s grown sons, who own a construction company, built the side porch at Sanborn prior to their father going to live there, just as he designed the logo prior to moving there.
As it turns out, the porch is a favorite resting spot for Rob.
“We have a nice porch at Sanborn where you can go outside when it’s nice out and get out of your room for a while.”
“Every day before breakfast, I go outside and I can see the sun come up and I thank God for the day and for breakfast and I ask Him if he will please watch over my immediate family members and keep them from any danger or accidents or evil. That gives me great comfort.
“Sanborn has been a great blessing for me.”