Thursday, October 8, 2009

Break Time

I want to go on record as saying that this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh, don't get me wrong, autumn is my favorite season. So when I say it's not the most wonderful time, I'm really just referring to fall break. School is out this week and Tri-County, Charley’s sheltered workshop is also out since it honors the school holidays.

So this can only mean one thing; if I haven’t lost my mind, I will. You can count on it.

Last night there was a workshop at the library, which meant that I got home a little later than usual. When I walked in the door there was a large blue plastic tote sitting beside the couch.

“What gives?” I said to Brad. “Is someone moving?”

“Well, not exactly,” he said and put his head in his hands. He just had to laugh.

I stood there waiting for an explanation.

“He’s ready to go to Dianne’s,” he said.

Now I was the one sitting with my head in my hands, and yes, I just had to laugh too.

It seems we’ve graduated from the duffle bag he always uses to carry his movies to a large (and I do mean large) blue tote with a lid. Maybe we shouldn’t have given him so many movies last weekend at his birthday party. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that you need a fork lift to pick it up, or wheels, or a squirt of WD40 to help slide it along the floor.

I also know that my son is a man with a plan. It’s Down Syndrome 101. Once he gets something in his brain it’s next to impossible to get it out, and what was in his brain was that he was going to Dianne’s house.

For those of you who are just tuning in to “Life with Charley,” Dianne is our friend from the church. She had a Downs brother who lived to be 45 years old and she understands all about what we live with on a daily basis. Most of the time it’s wonderful, but there are those times…well, let’s just say there are those times.

Charley just loves Dianne. She is the most fun person ever. She lets him lie on her bed and watch his videos and DVDs, eat chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce, and drink milk. And don’t think he can peel himself off the bed to haul his rear end into the kitchen either. No. He expects valet service. I don’t know if he thinks he’s at Sonic or what, but he just lays there and yells, “Dianne… I hungry.”

To him this is the real deal. His nirvana. Blessed bliss. And believe me, we are happy for him that someone as wonderful as Dianne is so sweet to him and takes the time to give him some attention. The only thing is…this time he hadn’t been invited.

I stood in his doorway. He said, “I ready Mom.”

“Where are you going son, you running away from home?”

Maybe I shouldn’t have suggested that. He looked at me like what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about, and said, “No, I go Dianne’s house.”

“Says who?”

“So what?” he said, which is his way of saying “Says me.”

So I said, “I don’t think so, my love.”

And he said, “Yes I are,” meaning, he’s been out of school for 5 days now and hasn’t had his Dianne experience yet, so he’s all packed and ready to go.

“Daddy take me morning,” he said. Well at least he’s not planning on going tonight.

I said, “Did she invite you?”

He said, “Yes Mom.” Uh huh, sure she did.

Just who did he think he was talking to here? I'm the Mom, remember? And Mom's know untruth when we hear it. I happen to know that Dianne is very busy this week babysitting her own grandkids and getting ready for the big festival here on Coker Creek, and I can assure you, she did NOT call and ask him to come to her house.

“Son, you have to wait until you are invited. Dianne is very busy this week; you can’t just barge in uninvited.”

“Yes I are, Mom, I love Dianne.”

"I love Dianne too, which means we need to give her some space," I tried to explain.

"Mom, get out of my room." Guess he didn't like what I was saying.

Tomorrow could be a long day.

Why oh why, oh why, oh why is school out for an entire week, the people want to know. Charley thinks he’s happy about this, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s bored. REALLY bored, and the rules are different for him than other 19 year olds. Most guys his age would be tooling down the road heading off to who-knows-where with his buddies doing who-knows-what. But our son is pretty much held hostage to our working schedule. He cannot be left unattended. Is it any wonder then when I say in my loudest high pitched scream, “I HATE FALL BREAK!”

And ditto that for spring and winter break, and any other break the school can think of, and they think of plenty. At least when he’s in school he is occupied and happy, and not packing large blue totes with his movies preparing for the invasion of Dianne’s house. That’s not to say that he’s unhappy being at home. It’s just to say that when he has too much time on his hands he tends to get creative and Dianne’s house is usually on the top of his list.

Somehow Charley and the school break thing is not a good combination; there are just too many things that can happen...

Take when we lived in New York for example. It was the week of Spring Break and you-know-who was experiencing boredom in Technicolor because it had been raining buckets and he couldn’t get outside. A certain someone who shall remain nameless was up in his bedroom playing and I was downstairs baking a cake.

At one point I walked through the living room and thought I saw something fly by the window, so I stopped. Nothing. Must have been my imagination. Then I heard a whoop and holler, and whoopee! I had seen something all right, and then I saw something else. It was the comforter off of his bed. Next came a pillow. Then another. Sheets? Yep, those too. So I went running up the stairs to find that my son had stripped all of the beds and was throwing everything out the 2nd floor window.

I said, “What the heck are you doing?”

He said, “Watch Mom!” and there went my electric blanket.

He was throwing things so he could watch them float in the air. When they hit the ground he looked up with a big goofy grin and said, “See?!”

I said, “How about them apples. But next time do you think you could wait until it’s not so muddy outside?”

Brad came home and asked why all of our stuff was on the front lawn. “Welcome to Spring Break,” I said, “And it’s a fun day.”

Then there are the school breaks that are unplanned. Like when Charley was about 11 years old and we had just moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia. One morning I was walking around our apartment wondering what to do with myself. I won’t ask that question again, I promise you, because just as I was thinking about whining, the phone rang. It was the school requesting the honor of my presence, immediately. Every parent knows that parenthood isn’t pretty, but being summoned to the school is the kiss of death.

So I raced down to the school and there was my son, isolated in a classroom all by himself, sitting in a chair in the middle of the room.

The principle took me into his office and proceeded to tell me that Charley had taken off his pants and had thrown them out the second floor window, and there are strict school policies regarding that sort of behavior, and he should not be let out on an unsuspecting public, and, and, and… the blue jeans had landed on his head. Oh Lord, I wanted to laugh so bad it was sheer agony. But I knew it was serious so I didn’t dare.

When they took me to the room where they were holding him, I opened the door and there was Charley, sitting in his underwear. Give me a break. “Hi mom!” he said. He didn’t have a clue that he had done anything wrong.

I said, “Son, where are your pants?”

“School man,” he said.

So I marched down the hall to the Principal who proceeded to explain to me that he just couldn’t have students running around without their pants, so I asked him why he didn’t give him back his pants and have him put them back on immediately. It seemed a little weird to me that the way to deal with a kid throwing his pants out the window was to keep the pants.

So I took the pants and went in search of my son who said, “I cold Mommy,” when I walked in the door, and I said, “Well I guess so, it’s all of 33 degrees outside, and here you sit without your pants. And might I suggest that you keep them on this time?”

He thought that was pretty funny.

I said, “Charley, what did you do?” I knew what he had done but I wanted to hear it from his own lips.”

He said, “I play joke on teacher!”

I said, “Son, you missed the teacher, and you got the Principal. Bad move.”

He said, “Oops.”

I said, “Son, next time you want to play a joke on the teacher, hide the chalk stick or something, okay? Don’t take your clothes off.”

He shrugged his shoulders and said “Warry Mom.” (That’s code for Sorry, Mom).

I told him I wasn’t mad at him but that I would be if he ever did that again. Then I took him home and made him work around the house for the rest of the day, scrubbing the bathtub, the kitchen cabinets, and anything else I could think of that would help him remember the error of his ways.

At one point he came out to the living room with a kitchen towel on his head. He said, “Mom, ever, ever again.” Which in Charley verbiage means, “Honest Mom, I’ll never do it again!”

And he wouldn’t, at least not at that school because they suspended him which meant that he was home from school for several days, and aye-yi- yi. I didn’t much like it when he was off school then and I don’t much like it now. He doesn’t have friends to hang out with and it makes for a long week around our house. At first he’s real excited about it and goes over the plan with us just to make sure he’s got it right.

“This school’s out?”

And I say, “No school.”

“Work off?”

And his Dad says, “No work.”

We can hear him in his room talking to his DVDs. “Guys, work off. This school’s out!”

“I go Dianne’s house?”

“No son, not today.”

Brad and I are cowards. We admit it.; we scatter like bugs. When we hear him talking the Dianne Plan, as we call it, we go into hiding. One of us pretends to be dressing in our room. The other hides in the bathroom for a while. Maybe he’ll forget. Maybe he’ll get distracted by his movies. Maybe he’ll disassemble his radio. Maybe…

Maybe he’s in his room.

Fat chance. Just when we think it’s safe to come out, we turn the corner to find him sitting on the couch waiting with his big blue tote, grinning from ear to ear, “Whelp, I go Dianne’s house now.”

And it’s a fun day!


  1. Hi Charlie,

    Hope you are enjoying your new movies and having fun with your friends while on school break.

  2. So, did he get to Dianne's house? Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. Yes, he got to Dianne's house, blue tote and all.