Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Great Pretender

Here’s a picture of Charley waiting in the car. He’s wearing my sunglasses. They look better on him than they do on me. 

Today he’s in a hurry.  He was lollygagging this morning, doing his best to convince me to wait until Superman was over before we ventured to the church, and he’s not one bit happy because I said no.

That’s why he’s in the car with my sunglasses on. It’s his way of acting like he’s been waiting for hours, and would I please hurry up? 

He doesn’t have all day, and I’ve already broken the Mom rules.  First, I made him take a shower. Second, I made him wash his hair. Third, I said, “No way” to his sleeveless muscle man shirt. Not at church, thank you very much.

He’s in some kind of mood this morning. Dressed in his suit coat over his Kentucky Derby T-shirt, and saying, “I hot, Mom.”

“Well take off your suit coat. That’ll cool you off.” But he refuses.

So he takes out his cell phone (it’s the kind that flips open), and says, “Oh, hi. Mom a new car. Yeah, hot, I burneen cwispy.” He’s letting me know that if the air conditioning hadn’t died in my car, then he’d be able to ride to church without roasting. That makes two of us.

“You’re not a chicken, you know.”

“Yes I are.”

“No you are not.”

He shuts the phone, then flips it open again.

The phone doesn’t work – it’s a phone my cousin Joanie sent him in the mail and he likes to pretend like he’s talking on it. He likes it, and why wouldn’t he? Everyone else has a phone.  No reason he has to look like Charley Palmer, not when he can look like Joe Cool, and that includes a cell phone.

Charley is the cell phone fog horn. No matter what room he’s in, if someone sends me a text, he yells, “Testing (texting) on you cell phone. Or, “You phone beep you.” Then Mr. Nosey wants to know who it was, what they said, and was it a message from a girl?”

And when he thinks I just don’t get it? Whatever “it” is? He uses it to report Brad and me to one another. To call me and tell on his Dad, when Brad forgets to buy batteries for his CD player.  Or, to call his Dad and tell on me when I’ve made him turn his radio down because it’s waking the dead. 

And, lastly, to call his girlfriend even though she has another boyfriend. Technically, he knows there’s no one on the other end, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pretend.

That’s what’s so much fun about Charley.  He’s always up for a little pretending.

When he thinks we won’t do what ever it is that he wants, he takes out his trusty cell phone and tells his plan to who-ever-it-is on the other end.

Like this morning.

First, he made a call to inform who-ever-it-was that he was stopping at Wiegel’s on the way to church to get some gas and a coke for Alex and Hanna (two girls he likes a lot). Alex and Hanna have brought him Dr. Pepper to church in the past, and today Charley has decided to pay it forward.

“No worry, I get dere wite away,” he says, and flips the phone shut.

“Who ya talking to, son?”

“No business,” he says.

“Geeze, that was rude.”

“Warry, Mom. I pwetend. No wude.”

We approach the corner and I know what he’s thinking. Mom’s mad; there goes the trip to Wiegel’s.

Out comes the phone. “Mom, you phone winging.”

I pull out my Blackberry. “Hello, who is it?” I say.

“I Shawley Pama,” Charley says.

“Mom, no talk-a-phone. You dwiveen.”

Now here’s the tricky part. I make it a policy not to talk on the phone while I’m driving. Uh huh, tell that to the police officer who pulls up beside the car. Since he has his window down, I roll mine down too, and give him a shout-out. “I’m pretending,” I say, as if he would automatically get the picture, that I'm not really on the phone, but playing with my kid when I'm  supposed to be driving.

He gives me a look that can only mean – holster that phone. And I slide the phone into the jacket and he drives off.

“See?” Charley says, like, I told you so, and then he pulls out his flip phone again, and says, “I on da way. Helpin’ Mom faster way.” This is code for; I will pump your gas (faster way means he likes to watch the numbers go round and round).

It’s also code for; then I’ll just scoot into the store and grab the drinks I want and set them on the counter and the checker will ring them up before you even have your wallet out. You better hope you have enough to pay for all this.

Flip.  The phone goes back in his pocket. He grins at me. “I pwetend, Mom.”

Sure he is.

No use arguing. We can’t get anywhere without gas, so I pull into Weigel's. Fifteen dollars worth of gas later, two chocolate milks (for him), the cokes for Alex and Hanna, and of course nothing for me, and we’re rolling down the highway.

Flip.  The cell phone is out of his pocket. “Winger, winger, winger,” he says.

“DaddyBrad, Mom slow poke.”  The cell phone goes back in his pocket.

I get the message. Keep going the 40-mile an hour speed limit, and someone’s going to be late for choir practice.

“Go Mom, I hungwy here.”

“We’re not going out to eat until after church, not before.”

“Gweat. Dust gweat.”

Ten minutes later we’re pulling into the parking lot at church. I usually park up on the hill next to the entranceway to the sanctuary. But not today. Today I’m parked around back.

Charley hops out of the car and starts running.

“Bye Mom,” yells and his backside disappears through the door.

I open the door just in time to see him running up and down the stairs. Exasperated, he makes it to the sanctuary, then back down the stairs again, and out comes the cell phone. “Alex n' Hanna no here.”

I get it. The kid is on a mission, and it doesn’t matter whether Alex and Hanna arrive or not, there are cokes here, and they will be delivered, although it sure would help if he had someone to deliver them to.

He sits in the row across from where Alex and Hanna always sit. The choir enters the loft and he puts his hands up in the air, like, “Where are they?” and then slumps down in his seat.

Then just as soon as church starts, here they come, and there he goes, climbing over the poor people in his way to get to the end of the row so he can hand the bag with the colas to Hanna.

Hanna takes one of the cokes and passes it down the row to Alex, and then Charley delivers a note I’ve written. Perhaps it might be a good idea if they open the colas outside. They’ve been shaken up, and if they aren’t careful it could give a whole new meaning to the words, Let us spray.

Mission accomplished. He goes back to his seat, gives me the two thumbs up and takes out his phone to report to who-ever-it-is that operation cola is complete.

Church is coming to a close and he points to his stomach, indicating that he’s put had just about as much church as he can tolerate on an empty stomach.

I pat my stomach. He knows this sign language, because when it comes to lunch he does one of two things. He points to his stomach and says, “My belly’s growlin’” or, he pats his stomach and says, “I fullt.”

Finally. The closing hymn. And not a moment too soon. He’s rolling his eyes, leaning on the pew in front of him, and puts one hand on his hip. I half expect him to pull out his flip phone like he’s calling to let who-ever-will-listen know it’s almost time for lunch. Instead, he stretches his arm out in front of him and turns his wrist, like he’s checking the time.

Would it surprise you to know he doesn’t even wear a watch? 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Okay, so Charley and I are hanging out together this morning, and we start talking about school starting back up in about a month, and girls. Here's what C had to say:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ladies Man

Here’s the heartbreaking thing. For us parents of adults with Down syndrome, our kids grow up. But they don’t grow out. Well, some don’t. I suppose there are some who don’t need the assistance of a caregiver to create their socialization.

What do I mean by growing out? I’m talking about growing out of themselves. Not spending every hour or every day alone, insulated. Being able to have a real social life, doing guy things, going out with girls, which is exactly what they want. But young men like my Charley can’t just get in the car and go hang out with his friends.

First, he attends a special needs class, and his friends can’t take off and hang out with each other either. Not without the adults in their lives creating “play dates.” That’s what they are called when they are little. But for the young adults who live the reality of DS every day, it's called inappropriate flirting. Just let him get in the vicinity of an attractive server at a restaurant, and he’s likely to blurt out something like, “Oh, He-llo!” or, “You purrty!” And then the rest of the evening is spent with him yelling, "I like you!" And, of course, there's the final word - "Call me!" 

People like Charley want to phone their peers and go on dates. But when they meet someone they like they have a built-in way of not getting the phone number. It's called forgetting to ask for it. Or when they do have a phone number and call the girl, they aren't able to verbalize what they are thinking. They just hold the phone and say, "What doin'" or, "Hi," and that's about the extent of the conversation. I've seen this happen before. 

And dating? Who picks up a date without a driver’s license? There’s nothing Charley would like more than to get himself a smooch but how’s he going to do that with his Mom (or Dad) driving the car? 

I’ve been trying to fix him up with girls who have Down syndrome for years.  I figure it will put him on a level playing field. But he won’t have any part of it. And why? Because he’s in denial about his Down syndrome.

One afternoon he heard me talking about him on the phone. I said the words “Down syndome.”

He stopped what he was doing and looked up.

“Huh? You say dat word?”

“All I said, was “Down syndrome.”

“Not me,” he said.

“You have Down syndrome, Charley.”

“FWEAK!” he said, and then crossed his arms, offended.

“Charley, there’s nothing wrong with having Down syndrome.”

“I NO have it,” he said.

“Don’t deny who you are, son. You are quite wonderful,” I said.

He grinned, and said, “Oh, kank-u.”

Brad took him swimming with the Down syndrome group later that evening. When he got home he said he’d met a girl.

“What’s her name?”

“Dat girl.”

“Did you get her phone number?”


“How are you going to ask her out if you don’t have her number?”

“Mom, no date, dus fwents.”

I hate to say it, but he’s pining after another girl but she’s already got a boyfriend. Who among us didn’t go through the same thing when we were young? Broken hearts. The kid is in love. It sucks.

As I’m sitting here writing this, Charley is sitting on the couch listening to Trace Adkins, blasting us out of the living room.

Honky Tonk Badonkadonk…

Now Honey, you can't blame her
For what her mama gave her
It ain't right to hate her
For workin' that money-maker
Band shuts down at two
But we're hangin' out till three
We hate to see her go
But love to watch her leave
With that honky tonk badonkadonk
Keepin' perfect rhythm
Make ya wanna swing along
Got it goin' on
Like Donkey Kong
And whoo-wee
Shut my mouth, slap your grandma
There outta be a law
Get the Sheriff on the phone
Lord have mercy, how's she even get them britches on
With that honky tonk badonkadonk
(Ooh, that's what I'm talkin' bout right there, honey)

“I a ladies man!” he says.

“Watch it, son,” I say.

“I like it.” He says.

It’s one of his favorites. He’ll play it until he knows every word too. Over, and over, and over. And over again.

And to put it in Charleyverbiage, “I might squeam.”