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Their love for Rodney pulled family together

September 17, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." This continuing series will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Rodney William Forcino, who died Sept. 8 at the age of 45. His obituary appeared in the Sept. 10 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Already the parents of a 5-year-old daughter, Bill and Wilda Forcino were excited about having a son in 1961.

"I remember when he was born, he didn't cry," Wilda said.

Rodney was given oxygen, wrapped in a blanket and immediately placed in an incubator.

After her initial fears that he might be dead, Wilda said she thought everything was fine when she and Bill finally took him home a couple of weeks later.

"He looked perfect," she said.

But it soon became apparent that Rodney had serious problems, beginning with his inability to suck on a bottle. Wilda and Bill cut larger holes in the nipples so Rodney could get his formula, and he gained some weight.


Whatever happened during or after his birth, Rodney never was able to care for himself or do the things most children could do. But through the years, Rodney's family kept him at home.

"We all took turns cutting his food and feeding him when he was little," said Rodney's younger sister, Brenda Embly.

In the 1970s, Rodney learned how to feed himself at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Baltimore.

Older sister Debbie Manning, who was 5 when Rodney was born, said she believes Rodney's life challenges brought the Forcino family closer together instead of pulling them apart.

While his entire life was a struggle, Rodney smiled broadly and often, according to his family. They gathered recently to share memories of Rodney, who died Sept. 8 at the age of 45.

Wilda said her son never was able to say "I love you, mom" to her in so many words, but she said she knew he loved her.

"Rodney would pull my head close to him, and then he'd push me away," Wilda said. "He was a loving kid, and we all got the feeling he knew us."

When Rodney was younger, everyone in the family took turns carrying him from place to place because he never was able to walk. As he grew larger, he would drag himself through the house.

When he was very young, he went to a program in Downsville, Wilda said. When the family later moved to Chewsville, Rodney didn't want to go anymore.

Rodney then attended Marshall Street School until he was too old for that program. He became a student at the day care offered by United Cerebral Palsy of Washington County.

"They'd pick him up in the bus, and take him to 600 Salem Ave. every weekday," Wilda said.

They did crafts and other projects, and even though Rodney wasn't able to do much, he seemed to enjoy his time there.

Debbie remembers that Rodney had a strong attachment to a plastic Halloween pumpkin with a handle, carrying it around wherever he went.

"He'd leave it at the door because he couldn't take it to school," Wilda said. When he came home, it was the first thing he grabbed.

Bill said Rodney often mangled the pumpkin to the point where it would have to be replaced.

At home, Rodney would watch television and videotapes.

"Sometimes, we wouldn't get the tape he liked at first, but when we did get the one he wanted, we knew it," Bill said.

When Brenda and Debbie were in their teens, they said they didn't avoid bringing their friends home because of Rodney.

"If my friends couldn't accept Rodney, I knew they weren't my friends," Brenda said.

As the years went by, two of Rodney's nieces, Ashley Shank and Christina Embly, sometimes would stay with him when the rest of the family was out of the house.

"At bedtime, he'd just drag himself upstairs," Christina said.

Christina's father, Denny Embly, said the family downstairs always would wait for Rodney to reach his room.

"When he got there, he'd slam that door so hard," Denny said.

Wilda and Bill often worried about what would happen to Rodney when they got older.

"I prayed that God would take us at the same time," Wilda said.

Rodney's health began to decline in late August, and he died just two weeks later.

"I think God answered our prayer," Wilda said.

The Forcino family is pictured in July at a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for Wilda and Bill Forcino, shown standing between their daughters, Debbie, left, and Brenda. Rodney Forcino is seated in the front.

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