Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why I wrote "Life With Charley"

So pleased to be today's guest blogger on "Backing books."

Many, many thanks to Rebekah Guyger for inviting me to be today's guest blogger on "Backing Books," while she is in Jordan with her archaeological study group.

I hope you will take time to visit Rebekah's blog. Here is the link:

Thanks for stopping by Life with Charley. Here is the guest blog: 

Someone recently asked me why I wrote Life with Charley. I opened my mouth to answer, and then had to stop myself. You know what? I didn’t know. Was it ego? The desire to be published? Maybe.

The fact is, I hadn't thought about it for so long, that even I didn't have the elevator speech for that. I've been writing Life with Charley for so long that even I can't remember the actual day I started.

I do know this, however. I didn't own a computer then. Everything I wrote was penned long-hand. Stories, dialog, details. It's all there, between the pages of my journals sitting on the bookshelf in my study at home. Every milestone, success, failure, shocking admission.

I never planned on a book. Then one day, Charley was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor playing with his robots, while at the same time telling me he wanted to go on a date.

That was the day I knew Life with Charley had to become a book. Why? Because I know there are other parents who might need to know Charley. People who might need to know what a gift they’ve been given. People who might have more patience for their child if they could know my child.

So, I dusted off the journals and decided to share. The good, the not so good, and the in-between. Perhaps my stories could offer hope, joy, comfort. Perhaps they could reach into the heart of someone fearful of the diagnosis of Down syndrome, and let them know the journey they are about to take is one they were chosen for. Sometimes we choose our journeys. Sometimes they choose us.

That’s how Life with Charley was born. With the desire to allow people access to Charley. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, as I say in my book, "Writing isn't easy. It means telling the truth when I want to lie.” Seriously, why would I want to tell complete strangers what an unmade bed our lives are?

For the price of a book, you get a front row seat to our shortcomings.

That said, I hope you also get a front row seat to our overcomings.

Join us, won’t you, on a journey into the mind of Charley. His silliness, his shenanigans, his dancing. The way he lights up the room when he walks in. The way he is 100% himself 100% of the time. His innocence. His logic. His sweetness. He is a story worth telling.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about “Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.”

You can find it here:

Please follow Charley on Facebook at:  Life with Charley - And Down syndrome

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hallelujah Hallow

On the porch...listening to his "hallow"
Charley stayed home from his Day program today. Our plan was to do some work around the house. But when it came time to dig in, well, a certain someone I know and love planted himself on the couch.
So I begged. Pleaded. Bribed. Moaned. Pleeeease, Charley. You promised you would help.
Think it did any good? Well, not exactly.
I folded clothes. He danced to High School Musical.
"Son," I said. "Turn off that radio. Stop that dancing. We've got chores to do. Get busy."
I scrubbed the sink. He played with the cat.
I cleaned out the closet. He went to the fridge and sprawled out on the couch to eat. And eat. And, EAT.
I did what I suspect most Mom's do. I threatened.
If you don't get off your rear, this will happen...
You're gonna to be sorry, because that will happen...
I'm gonna tell Dad...and anything can and will happen...
Finally, out of sheer frustration I sat down and cried. I don't know why, exactly. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
What did he do? He continued to eat. And luxuriate on the couch. And eat.

"Stop crying Mom."

Stop crying? Sounded good. But how? I just kept at him. Yap. Yap. Yap. As if he would get the message that he was being an inconsiderate jerk. My hissy fit was of no use to me. Even I could see that.
And then something happened. I shut up. I just sat there and cut him off from all conversation.
He doesn't like that. Let me rephrase that...he can't. stand. it.
He tried, believe me.
Mom, what doin?
Mom, I tired.
Mom, work is hard.
Still, no comment from me. Let me tell you what, Buster, I am NOT talking to YOU.

I admit it. I felt sorry for myself. Why should I have to do all the work? I've got an able-bodied 24 year old. He can do the grunt work. Lift the heavy stuff. Help a little.

Somewhere between my no-talking and his please-talk-to-me stand-off, he turned the dial on the radio to the middle of a sermon on repentance.
The preacher talked about taking responsibility for your life, and having the guts to apologize when you've been wrong. But not just saying you are sorry, he said you have to change your behavior or the repentance doesn't count. He said that we all sometimes make poor choices, and that if we want to really be happy in this life, we have to be responsible for our own happiness, and that includes how we treat others.
What happened next should have surprised me, but it didn't. Because I know Charley.
There, standing in front of me, was my son, holding out his hand, helping me up. He looked me in the eye and said, "Mommy, God said we-pen-dance. On da hallow (that's what Charley calls his radio). I listened."
I said, "God was on the radio?"
He said, "Yep. He said we-pen-dance."
"Yeah, Mom. We-pen-dance. I sorry, Mom. What do?"
And there went my frown, right out the window. And why not? I couldn't help smiling as he explained that the voice on the radio belonged to God. Hallelujah.
So there he was, apologizing. Repenting. Asking me what I wanted him to do. Changing his behavior. Doing the right thing.
Here was this young man with special needs, who some might think of as marginal, or simple, taking responsibility, asking for some assignment, telling me, "I work now. "

And with that, he went to the dryer and pulled the laundry out, and loaded the washer. Then he proceeded out to the end of the driveway and pulled the garbage can back up to the house (and put it where it is supposed to go). Next, he assisted as I cleaned off the Baker's cabinet. And this time, not one complaint.

"See?" he said. "I make you pappy."
And it did. It made me so happy I cried again.
Charley was not the least bit amused.
"Mom, you no cry," he said. "You listen, you we-pen-dance. God said." Then he headed to the porch with his "hallow" to do a little dance. Right out there where all the neighbors could see. Strutting his stuff.
And you know what? That made me laugh. Not that he was trying to be funny, but when your kid hears the word repentance and then dances a little jig on the porch, what's a Mom to do?

You do a little jig, that's what. You park your marching orders at the door. You lay your burdens down. You look into the face of your child who says he's listened to God, and you do a little we-pen-dance. And you listen to the wisdom of that extra chromosome called Down syndrome. 
And if you're not careful, you just might laugh a little more . You just might see the world in a different way. You might hear something worth dancing about on that Hallelujah Hollow.


Thank you for reading my blog! Please come back soon!
Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, published by Zharmae Publishing Press, available on
You can read the first two chapters free, here:
Please visit Charley on his Facebook page at: Life with Charley - And Down Syndrome:



Friday, May 15, 2015

Heart Warriors

So pleased to announce that my guest blog is featured today In Blog Z...

In my book, Life with Charley, I have a chapter titled “Everyone’s Arena.” It’s all about the Special Olympics.

Now. You may think the focus is on the athletes. And it is, as it should be. It’s their time. But there’s something else. I want to talk about coaches. And peer tutors. And volunteers. And heart. And smiles. And those who make it possible for our athletes to shine.

It’s heart that leaves a family and boards the bus with around 60 athletes, 20 coaches, and 20 peer tutors (and that’s just the bus from our area) seeing to their every need, both physically and emotionally.

It’s heart that guides and directs the athletes from event to event, pushing wheelchairs, monitoring, seeing to it that medications are taken on time, making sure they get their snacks, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen.

It’s heart that stands on the sidelines, cheering, yelling, “You can do it!”

It’s heart that’s been on the go all day, yet finds the energy to be that dance partner for that athlete who otherwise might sit this one out.

It’s heart that sends my Charley home with a smile like no other.

You see, these aren’t just ordinary hearts. These are heart warriors. 
Warriors in charge of other hearts. Warriors that go out in search of smiles. Warriors that capture the very spirit of what it means to be a Special Olympian and the smiles that go with it.

Smiles like the one my son has when he arrives home.

Smiling is not unusual for him. It’s something that comes natural, like breathing. But this is a different smile.This is a smile that says, “I’ve got friends.”

Mike and Charley
Mike and Charley
“I belong.”
“I’m one of them.”
“I am somebody.”
Yeah. That smile.

It’s a smile of knowing acceptance. Of being a star. Of knowing you’ve made it to the finish line. Of standing shoulder to shoulder with your teammates. Posing for the picture.

It’s a smile that’s heard the thunder of applause, and knowing it’s meant for you.

Each time my Charley comes home from the Special Olympics, tired, happy, proud, I say a silent prayer of thanks. For the Special Olympics that puts that smile on my son’s face. For the hearts that give it freely. For those who do what few others would do, reaching into the hearts of those Special Olympians and pulling out those time of your life smiles.

Today my husband and I stood in the parking lot and watched as the bus drove away. The bus that would deliver the most important person in our lives to the one place that could help him find that smile.

So today I want to turn the spotlight on those who make it possible. 

Those who heart others.

Those who send our kids home with that smile.

I want these heart warriors to know that for those of us back home looking forward to that smile, rest assured. That smile belongs to them.
Sherry is holding a “Life with Charley Gratitude Giveaway.” To find out more about the contest, go to:
You can find out more about Sherry and Charley at:
Charley’s Facebook:
Twitter: @LifeWithCharley
Amazon Author Page:
Sherry Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.
About the book:
Step into the world of special needs parenting and catch a heartwarming glimpse of unconditional love.
Charley is funny, ridiculous, ornery, and charismatic. He also has Down syndrome, and Sherry Palmer thanks her stars each and every night for the blessing that is Charley. Sherry knew that her life would change drastically when she and her husband decided to adopt a baby boy with Down syndrome, and she knew they would struggle at times with his developmental challenges, with other peoples’ perceptions, and with their own emotions. What she didn't know was just how amazing their world would become once Charley was in their lives—and in their hearts.
What the couple wants is to be parents. Little do they know that adopting a baby with Down syndrome breaks all the rules.
What the family wants is to talk them out of it. Thus begins a phone-calling campaign of do-gooders warning of the pitfalls. Surely this couple has no idea what they are doing. Surely they realize it’s a lifetime choice. What these well-intentioned people don’t know is that it’s the chance of a lifetime.
What the church wants is a typical pastor’s family (The handsome pastor. The thin, perfect pastor’s wife. The well-behaved, well-mannered preacher’s kid). What they get is the polar opposite, and what they find out is that sometimes even church life can have its challenges.

From the unlikeliest of sources comes a powerful message that the key to true happiness is in just being yourself.

Please visit! 

In the meantime, I'm excited to announce our Life With Charley Giveaway!

Announcing our "Life With Charley" Gratitude Giveaway!

Beginning today and ending May 30th you can enter to win one copy of "Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption," signed by Charley and me.

This Gratitude Giveaway is in honor of the teachers, coaches, peer tutors, and volunteers who have given so much of themselves to make my son happy. 

In fact, at the time of this posting, they are on a bus on their way to the Special Olympics in Nashville. Rather than spending the weekend with their families, they are taking Charley and roughly 60 others to compete in the state games. Folks such as Gina Legg, Mike Sowards,  Camryn Cupp, Nate Berryman,  Skylar Gilliam, and Gabriel Boninoma. And that's just this trip! A host of others have taken their turns as well, such as Gerry Williams, and Yvette Dinger-Bennett, Miranda Williams, Jordan Childress, and Karri Byrd.

I'm naming those I know of who have worked with Charley's group. I know there are others. If I have missed your name it was not on purpose. There's no way I could name them all, and that's the point. There are many who have been so good to Charley and all of the Special Olympians on the state and local level. There's nothing Charley likes more, and Brad and I are incredibly grateful that he is included.

I'm so excited to have this chance to celebrate the Special Olympics with this Gratitude Giveaway. 

I know our athletes are special, but this giveaway is all about gratitude for those who make the Special Olympics possible for our loved ones. Those who, as I write about in my book, make the Special Olympics "Everyone's Arena." 

As the Special Olympics motto says, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." It is these service-oriented volunteers who create the arena where everyone is a winner.

On behalf of my Special Olympian: Thank you.

Here's the link to sign up for the giveaway on Goodreads:

I will be re-running this post over the next couple of weeks along with pictures of the Special Olympics. Please share so we can honor these volunteers properly. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mr. Prom

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stranger Danger

Have you ever known someone so sweet that they have no fear?

That’s Charley.

Everybody’s friend

And, as far as he’s concerned, everybody is his friend, too.

Here’s how things work at my house…

Charley is the neighborhood greeter. He stands out on the front step and waves to everyone. "Hey fwent!" 

Sometimes they wave back. Sometimes they ignore him properly.

He watches everyone.

“Look Mom, dat guy over dere.” Meaning, that guy is mowing lawn.
“Dat guy got da mail.” And so should he.

“Dat guy work da house.” Meaning, that guy has power tools. They make lots of noise. That makes him cool. Maybe he’d like to come to our house and tell us all about it.

And so it was.

I’m busy doing laundry, and sit down to take a break. I’m bending over, rummaging in my knitting bag for my latest project, and better hurry with it, or Mom’s birthday will be here before I’m finished.

“See? Dat my Mom,” he says.

I look up. There’s a man with long curly hair standing in the living room.

Oh Lord.

The man introduces himself as “Ron,” and squats down to pet the cat.

We chat for a moment, but inside I’m freaking out.

A man in the living room.

A man I’ve never seen before.

The man tells me he is working on the house across the street, building a play room for the new neighbors.

He seems nice enough, but he’s in my living room and I’ve never seen him before.

“See?” Charley says to me after the man leaves.

“Charley, you know better than to invite some stranger into the house like that.”

Or does he?

I remember telling him over and over not to open the door to strangers if they knock.

But did I ever tell him not to invite someone in?

How many times has he been in the living room and I’ve brought a friend home. Someone he didn’t know? True, I didn’t flag them in from off the street, but still, he didn’t know them. And what did I do? I introduced them. "Say hi, Charley."

Charley has a dilemma. He sees what I do. Then I tell him not to do it.

He’s 24. Should he be able to invite a friend in?

He has no concept of my-stranger-is-ok, but-yours-is-not.

As Charley gets older, I admit I let my guard down more than I used to.

I let him go outside by himself more. He empties the garbage. Most of the time he comes back. When he doesn’t, we go fetch him.

Sometimes he takes a detour, such as to the house across the street to invite “Ron” to the house.

It’s scary to see a stranger in your house.

Now, you must understand, I’m not afraid when Charley’s around. At least, I try not to be.

He’s strong and even though he is smaller than that guy, I have no doubt he could beat him up and leave him begging for mercy if provoked. All those years of carrying the TV from his room to the living room and back again every 15 minutes because he couldn't decide where he wanted to watch it didn't leave my son without muscles. 

Not that I want him inviting the neighborhood into the house, but if he decides they are all to come calling, then so be it.

The thing that gives me pause is this…Charley has no fear. No filter. No what-if?

What if that guy isn't a good guy?

What if Mom doesn't want to entertain right now?

What if I get in trouble for bringing ol’ Ron into the house unannounced? 

It's not a good situation, this open house, come-on-in. This Ya'll-com-back-now-ya-hear? No, it's downright dangerous. I've spent countless times explaining how he could get hurt. How I could get hurt. It's not that he doesn't care, it's that it doesn't register. 

I'll say, "Charley, inviting someone to the house that you don't know is dangerous."
He looks at me and grins, like, Dat guy? Can't you see how nice dat guy is? And he says, "Come on..."

It makes no sense to him. Such is the communication gap. The schism of reasoning that sets Charley apart from other thinkers. He wants to be regarded as a man, and most of the time he is. But it is times like these when the innocence of that 21st chromosome gets in the way. 

That being said, stranger danger and all, I have to admit that even though he sometimes scares me to death, I try to remind myself to look for the good. There has to be something good about this, and there is. He sets an example with his neighborliness. His unconditional acceptance of his fellow man.

 I admire him. 

I often wonder what it must be like to be Charley. To live your life as if everyone has your best interest at heart.

What if we all lived our lives like that?

What if we all treated strangers as if they were our new best friend? 

What if we brought them fried chicken on the first night in their new house? Brad did that the night they moved in.

What if we invited people in?

Most of us keep the world out.

We keep ourselves closed.

What if we were a little more neighborly? What if we approached the other guy like Charley does...why can't we be fwents?

What if we walked across the lawn and said, “Hi” ?

If we did that, the stranger in our house wouldn't be so strange after all.

And just to clear this up, no, I don’t particularly want a strange guy in my living room.

Charley and I will have a little chat about that.

Right after I walk across the lawn and meet the new neighbors.

*  *  *

Sherry Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, available on

Friday, March 20, 2015

Life with Charley Book Launch for World Down Syndrome Day on Live at 5 at 4

Look at Charley on TV!

He is quite excited about the book, but equally excited that he was able to say hi to his friends on TV.

Great job, Charley Palmer! Click on the link below to view!


You can find Life with Charley on Amazon, or ask your local bookseller if they can order it for you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Our World" Day

Life With Charley Giveaway...

Announcing our World Down Syndrome Day "Life With Charley" Giveaway. Hurry, contest ends March 21st. Here's the link: 

There’s a reason we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, Trisomy 21 Day, or in our house, as we call it, “Our World Day”. (March 21, 2015).

How else could we raise awareness of God’s gift to humanity?

I say this without reservation. There are people in this world who have no idea how what a gift people with DS are. Worse, there are those individuals who would use the “R” word in reference to these people we love so much. 

We can only pity those people. First, for their cruelty, and second, because they have been deprived.

Pity they don’t know the fun that comes with DS. The uninhibited, unbridled dancing in the street. The silliness. The laughter. The funny little jokes they play on us.

Pity they don’t know the loyalty. 

The got-your-back-no-matter-what, warts and all.

The “Dis is my Mom,” and “Dis is my Dad” pride in their voice when they introduce us to strangers in the grocery store.

The I-love-you-anyway bottomless way they forgive us for our imperfections. 

The unconditional acceptance. The gentle kisses and the arms around our necks.

The simple, no nonsense dialog, and the continual efforts to make us understand when we can’t decipher what they have tried to articulate for the umpteenth time.

I’ve known people with Down syndrome all my life, even way before we adopted Charley. I believe I have earned the right to say that there has never been a more generous person than the one who lives in my house.

Charley is 24 years old now. For twenty-four years, Brad and I have been celebrating him. And yes, we have been celebrating his Down syndrome and everything that means to our lives.

If God gives me another 24 years of Trisomy 21, I will continue to count myself the most blessed person in the world.

Why? Because every day in our house is World Down Syndrome Day. Because Charley is “our world”. And that indeed,is something to celebrate.

*   *   *  
For information about World Down Syndrome Day, 2015, please visit

*   *   *
Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of, Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Man Who Could Be President

It seems only fitting on this President's day to talk about Charley’s political views.
First, and let’s get this over with right now, when Dad was alive he would call Brad and ask whose turn it was to take Charley into the voting booth.
It doesn’t take a political science genius to figure out that Brad and I cancel out each other’s votes. At least, that’s what I want Brad to believe.
The truth is, Brad never knows who I vote for because I don’t tell him. It drives him crazy, but since it’s one of the few things I don’t have to tell, I don’t. Besides, if I tell, it won’t be fun anymore.
Dad's theory was that whoever's turn it was to take Charley into the voting booth got to vote twice. But he would be wrong. Neither one of us tell Charley who to vote for. We may help him if he needs it, but that's it.
Most people would assume Charley knows nothing about politics. After all, he has Down syndrome, right?
Well, let’s see about that.
First, Charley knows exactly who the President is. He always has. When Clinton was in office, he would point at the TV screen and say, “Cweantone.”
I'd say, "You mean Clinton?"
He'd say, "Yeah."
When Bush was in office, Charley would point to the screen and say, “Pwesident Bus!”
When Obama took office he’d point to the screen and say, “Daddy, look! Bama!”
Charley is. Bipartisan. He's always liked the President, who ever he is.
Second, he doesn't care if the President is black, white, yellow, green with pink hair, rich, poor, likes or hates broccoli, stands for gay-pride, or has Howdy Doody ears. The President is the President, and it's Charley's job to cheer him on.
This is and always will be one of Charley's greatest gifts, and a for me, a source of Momma-pride.
One of his favorite movies is The American President. Although, I think it sometimes confuses him. One minute he’s pointing to Michael Douglas and then there’s a commercial with Obama, and then back to Michael again, and he's looking at us like, what the heck?

He doesn’t stay confused for long. Charley has a small black radio and he listens to Rush Limbaugh on the radio every day. Rush is always fussing about President Obama. So much so, that he fusses at Brad and I if we talk during Rush’s program.
“Mom, Dad, no talk. Da Pwesident’s on.”
“That’s not the President, Son, that’s Rush Limbaugh.”
“Uh uh, Bama, dat guy said so.”
“No, Son, he’s fussing about Obama.”
“Uh uh, Dad.”
“Yuh huh, Charley.”
And Rush gets cranked up again, yelling “Obama care” into the microphone, and Charley looks at us and says, “See? Dat Bama, dat guy care,” like, gees, you guys just don’t get it.
I suppose there’s no way we can convince Charley it’s not Obama.
But what about the boy at the Special Olympics?
Brad and I both went to the park one afternoon to watch Charley compete.
Charley wasn’t exactly happy about this. We weren’t sure why, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably because he was afraid we were there to take him home.
But there was one athlete who was thrilled.
No one else had on a suit and tie, but since Brad had a lunch meeting he was dressed in business attire. He stood at the top of the stairs watching Charley on the podium, as he was presented with his medal. Moments later, a wide-eyed athlete climbed the stairs and came face to face with Brad.
Clearly a fan, he looked up at Brad. “Are you the President?” He asked with a big grin. Brad tried to hide it, but I saw the ego boost on his face.
By the time Brad shook the athlete's hand Charley was standing beside them. “No silly,” he said to the boy. “Dat my Dad."
Seriously though, as far as Charley is concerned, Brad could be president. Make no mistake about it though, I'm the speaker of the house.
Presidents come and go. We see them on TV. We listen to them on the "hollow." We celebrate their birthdays. But in our house? There's only one president. One leader. One Dad.
And we all know who the president of that fan club is.

Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, available at

Please follow Charley's Facebook page:  Life With Charley - And Down Syndrome

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Disability and the Special Prom

The following article, "Disability and the Special Prom,"  was posted today by my friend, Stephanie Holland, of "The Road We've Shared." Here's the link:

If you know of someone who has a loved one with Down syndrome, please, won't you take a moment to share?

Thanks Stephanie, I couldn't have said it better. Your brilliance and experience with your son reaches across the internet into so many hearts.

Note: Charley will be attending one of these Special Proms on February 21st.

As a mother of a young man with DS, I watch every day, how he wishes he could be a part of the world where dances are a rite of passage. But for people like Charley, the opportunities to socialize with people like him are sadly, limited. When he attends one of these proms, it's like his world opens up. Somehow the social schism of differentness narrows just enough to put him in an arena where he is able to be just like everyone else just by being himself. At the Special Prom he's not special needs. He's just Charley.

There's freedom in that. Freedom in being who you are.

For all who spend their time and money on providing my son with the time of his life, THANK YOU.

Charley, getting ready to dance his feet off!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Circle Unbroken - A Special Olympics Post

When I saw this on Facebook today, I thought immediately of Special Olympics.

Sad to say, but few of us in this world understand this message. But happy to say, Special Olympians do.

There's a group of special needs students from Knoxville at Ober Gatlinburg right this very minute. They may not be sitting in a circle with their feet together, but their arms are around their buddies.
Special Olympians understand the concept of the circle..."what's good for the group." They know that in order to cross the finish line, their buddies have to cross it too. They know that in order for a circle to encompass a spirit, it must be unbroken.

I've seen it. Even wrote about it on this very blog. Here's the original blog, written nearly two years ago. I'm rerunning this post not because I'm too lazy to write a new one, but simply because even though it refers to an outdoor sport, if I wrote it again for the winter games, the message would be the same.

Here it is...

The last time I saw Charley compete in Special Olympics, he was standing in the middle of a circle. Right in the middle of a volleyball court, crying. Not because he didn’t win. Everyone’s a winner at the Special Olympics. It’s about standing shoulder to shoulder with your fellow teammates, and mostly, having fun.

He was excited that day, putting on his official Special Olympics T-shirt, and he would have had a good time too, if I hadn’t fouled things up.

I can’t always go to his Special Olympics events, but that morning he put his arm around me and said, “Mom, you comin’?”

I started to blurt, “I can’t. I have to work.” Seems I'm always working on the important days. But the fact is, I didn’t have to work that day, so, Brad and I were there to cheer him on.

As we entered the gym he came running up to us. “Guys, dis my Daddy, dis my Mom,” he grinned and pointed us out to anyone who would listen. I don’t know who was prouder, him or us.
Brad and I made our way to the bleachers and sat down, when moments later Yvette (Charley's teacher) suggested we move.
“You can’t sit here,” she said, “Families sit in the upper level out of harm’s way.”

Even Brad pleaded with me to move to a safer seat, “Let’s move to the no kill zone,” he said.

But I had picked my spot and my fat little rear end wasn’t about to budge. “I can see better here,” I insisted, when, five, four, three, two, one. BLAM. A volleyball right in the kisser. After that, the only thing I saw was stars.

My face was bleeding, my nose was smashed, and my lip was cut. I tried not to cry as Brad escorted me to the hallway and helped me find the ladies room where I wiped my face with a wet paper towel and collected myself. 

 I considered leaving and going home. I couldn't see the game anyway; my glasses were a twisted mess. Besides, I didn't want to embarrass Charley any more than I already had. But Charley wouldn't understand if he looked up and we weren't there, so we went back to the gym.

As I opened the door I expected to see a volleyball game in progress. Instead, I saw a circle. There, in the middle of the floor, beside the volleyball net, was my son, surrounded by a circle. A circle that included not only his team, but the opponents as well. He was crying, and his buddies had turned their attention from their own moment of glory to make sure Charley was okay.

"It's okay, Charley," I heard one of them say.

"Your Mom be alright," Another said.

I walked over to him and he threw his arms around me and cried some more. I assured him that I was okay, his teammates (and yes, the opponents) slapped him high-fives, the excitement returned, and the game resumed.

I learned several things that day. First, if you are going to bend the rules, you might end up being the one who’s bent. Even Moms are supposed to respect boundaries. Including me.

Second, there’s a reason they call it Special Olympics. It’s called sportsmanship and there’s so much more to it than beating the other guy. It’s all about the dream and the team. The dream to be a winner, and the team that loves the sport, but more importantly, the team that loves each other.

Above all, it’s about helping a teammate find his smile so he can get back in the game. Because when you help someone else win, you win too.

And third. Isn’t it ironic? Those who are often considered the least of us because of their special needs are often the ones who teach us the most.

Somewhere in Ober Gatlinburg there's a group of athletes racing toward the finish line. Whooping and hollering and cheering each other on. Slapping high-fives when they win, and more importantly, when they don't.

I borrowed this image from Pinterest 

Special Olympics gets it right.

In a world where reality TV encourages and captures a 
"me-ism" mentality, isn't it nice to know there's a group at Ober practicing "we-ism?"

Will the circle be unbroken? It will if our Special Olympians have anything to say about it.

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Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.

Available on Amazon:

Follow Sherry's board Life with Charley and Down syndrome on Pinterest.