Friday, November 22, 2013

Live on, JFK

I'm a winner!
Because of the Kennedy legacy, people like my Charley are able to call themselves athletes. In my house, it sounds like this:

"Close you eyes, Mom."

I close my eyes.

"Put out hand."

I open my hand, holding it in front of me.

"No peeking."

Something metal is placed in my hand.

"Okay, eyes open."

There, in my hand, is a silver Special Olympics medal.

"Wow! Did you win this today?"

"Yep! I play basketbalt!"

"Remember, Charley, it's not the medal that makes you a winner. You are a winner because you are you."

"Yep, I am." He's beaming with pride.

He takes the medal out of my hand, puts it around my neck, and kisses my cheek.

"I'll never take it off," I tell him.

I have the Kennedy's to thank for that. Because the Kennedy's unlocked the door of disabilities, reached through the portal of possibilities, and reminded us that, "We all breathe the same air," people like Charley have been welcomed with opened arms and lifted up with open hearts.

Today brings with it memories for those of us who learned of the assassination of President Kennedy 50 years ago. I was in the fourth grade sitting at my desk thinking about throwing a spit-wad into the beehive on my teacher's head when a woman stepped into the classroom and made the announcement. Little did I know at the time, that she was talking about someone who's pioneering family would have such an effect on my own, so many years later, in the form of Special Olympics.

For those who may not know, Special Olympics was born as the result of Eunice Kennedy Shriver starting a camp for special needs people in her back yard. A place where they could run and play, and be themselves. A place where they were accepted exactly as they were, encouraged to be the best they could be, were taught to encourage others, and were celebrated for their accomplishments. I am humbled and inspired by difference makers.

Because of the Special Olympics, people like my Charley know the roar of a cheering crowd. The anticipation of starting the race. The thunder of clapping hands. The excitement of the finish line. The happiness of a teammate's arm around a shoulder. The pride of hanging a medal around a mother's neck.

Yes, President John F. Kennedy died too young, and today we pause and reflect. It was a tragic day in the life of our nation and we remember his family in our prayers.

But in the backdrop, isn't it nice to know that he lives on every time a Special Olympian's tennis shoes hit the racetrack. Every time the swimmer's arms make another splash. Every time the volleyball is launched over the net. Every time a parent looks into the face of their special needs child and says, "Congratulations!" Every time an athlete feels like a winner.

Rest in peace, JFK. 

Remind us to breathe the same air.

Compete with pride, Special Olympians.

Inspire us to be the best we can be.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Pledge

Not sure what brought this on, but when Charley got off the van yesterday (the one that takes him to and from the Sertoma Center every day), he burst through the door, went to Brad's recliner and plopped.

"How was your day, Son?" I asked.


He handed me a red slip of paper that had instructions for basketball Special Olympics. "Wead dis, Mom."

I held the paper up and said, "Special Olympics is tomorrow."

"Mo-om, I no he-wit." (Meaning, read it out loud.)

I did. I read every word. By then he'd peeled off his shirt and stood in front of me with his hand over his heart.

"I pwedz wegens, fwag..."

"Shouldn't you put a shirt on for this?" I asked. “It just doesn’t seem appropriate…”

"Mom, FOCUS."

Yesterday he told me to breathe. And with good reason.

What should have been a nice, relaxing break for us (Charley was at camp) turned into a bulldozing frenzy. More specific, Brad submarined his room, carrying out everything imaginable (and unimaginable). Into the trash it went. That's what you do with a hoarder. You wait for the opportunity, which in our case meant we waited until Charley was out of the house for a few days.

Not that we haven't tried. We've beg, pleaded, bribed, withheld privileges, scolded, sweet- talked and shamed him.

And oh, the fights. They sound like this:

"Charles Benjamin, you are NOT to throw trash on the floor."

"Clean up your room!"

"My God! Look at this mess! If you don’t clean it up, it’s going in the trash."

In the end, he's going to be who he's going to be. Not all people with Down syndrome hoard. But from what I’ve read, a good many do. Which means ambushing him when he's gone. Mostly by Brad and his cast iron stomach. (I couldn’t help much because of my busted leg. Not sure whether to dissolve into guilt or sing the hallelujah chorus.)

Disgusting? Yes. Gross. Vile. Boy funk. You name it.

Brad and I braced ourselves for the explosion when he returned home.

"He's going to freak when he sees we've been in his room."

"Hold onto your panty girdle, it won't be pretty."

What we expected was a temper tantrum. What we got was relief.  He even said "Kank-u." But not before trying to change it back. It took all of 30 seconds before we heard tables being moved, things being shoved around, like, you’ve had your fun, Mom and Dad, but don’t you know to leave things the way you found them? I opened the door and peeked in.

Well, that did it. A moment later I stood in the middle of his room and began the lecture from you-know-where. You know the one. The don't-even-think-of-doing-what-ever-it-is-you-are-thinking-of-doing lecture. The one that's too late because it's already done. Yep, that's the one.

"Charley Palmer. Your Dad worked hard on this room. And YOU, are not wrecking it. Period."

He stood up, put his hands in front of him and pushed them down and out to his sides, sort of like a whoosh, and said, "Breathe."

Oh. Was I not brea-thing? "Mom, you face is wed." I guess so, I was fixing to blow.

"Bweathe, Mom. Camp said so."

"Did they teach you that at camp?"


He demonstrated again how to take a deep breath.

It helped. I left the room, laughed, and returned with a smile. Here was my son, telling me not to sweat the small stuff. (Not that his mess is ever small stuff). He was home, back from camp, safe, happy, not melting down over his gutted room, but simply moving the table closer to his bed so he could reach the TV. (Heaven forbid he should have to move one inch to operate the DVD player.)

I helped him. We fixed the table – the one that’s falling apart. “Don’t breathe on it,” I said. “I’m out of duck tape.”
“Okay, Mom.” He was grinning.
We arranged the cords so they wouldn't get all tangled up like before. I wagged my finger at him. "A clear path around the bed. This is NOT negotiable," I said. "And the trash BETTER find its way to the trash can. And we BETTER not find any trash under the bed."

"I got it, Mom. G
"We're calling you on the carpet, Son. Consider this your first and final warning." (Just call me hash tag #nag.)
He's been home since Sunday. Today is Wednesday. Every morning Brad and I do the Palmer-Patrol. We walk around the bed inspecting the floor for any signs of trash.
But just to be fair, we laid out the ground rules:
  • One piece of trash equals one DVD gone from his bed.
  • One chicken nugget on the floor equals the remote control in our possession for the day.
  • One coke can or milk carton on the floor equals the TV locked in the trunk of the car.
"Do you understand?"
"I got dis, Daddy."
He's been doing pretty good. So far. The Sermon Man (that’s Brad) reminds himself to breathe. The nag reminds herself to breathe. Meantime, it doesn't hurt to remind him too.

There comes a time when the house has to win.
So I stand, put my hand over my heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with him.
"Repeat after me, Son."
I pledge allegiance to my room
Of the United States of America.
And to the carpet on which it stands.
One piece of trash, under the bed
in misery and justice for all.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Procrastinating Mommies

Waiting for Trick-or-Treaters

Procrastinating mommies are easy to spot.  Those of us who wait until there’s no hope of getting a Halloween costume, then park as close to the door as possible, and stampede into the store, hoping not to hurt anyone in the process. 

We meet every year in the costume aisle at Wal-Mart about a half hour before the official Trick or Treat thing is to begin. That’s the way we like it.  It works for us.  This way, we don’t have to worry about what to do when we get there.  We already know what’s left...nothing.  

Still, we are there to do the mommy thing.  Also, there’s the thrill of the hunt, and we can prove it.  Shoulder to shoulder us procrastinating mommies stand, crammed into the same aisle, attempting not to invade each other’s body space, holding up bits and pieces of costumes that have been trampled underfoot. We hope for a miracle, which would consist of actually finding a costume that accommodates our children’s body sizes, without causing us to mortgage our homes to pay for the goofy things. Then, we discover what we already knew we would discover, which is the crabby reality there is no way we are going to pay that, not when our kid is going to wear it once we move on to plan B.

Plan B. Reconsider. Impress the neighbors if you have to, but cue for the chocolate. The candy that matters. The ones you don’t let your kids have before bedtime while you count the minutes until dreamland visits the premises and you can be alone with the Kit Kat bars. Twix. Mini packet of M & Ms. So what if you pay the ten bucks? You could go to the candy aisle, purchase your own Snickers minis, and be known as the one who hands out the good stuff, or you can pay your ten bucks for the costume like the rest of the procrastinators and get the free stuff.

Plan C.  Snap back to the moment. Fuss about the lack of choices as if it isn’t our own fault.  “Can you believe this pitiful selection?”  Some of us mouthy moms approach the poor sales ladies at the store. “Pardon me, ma’am, but do you perhaps have a Batman costume in a size 6?”  This of course, puts the poor saleswoman in the position of having to maintain a poker face while hee-hawing on the inside from her own self-talk (What a dweeb.  Reality check, ma’am, its 10 minutes before Halloween is to begin. Get a life honey, nothing’s left).  These sales ladies are good, though; they manage sympathetic smiles while walking over to the costume rack to help us look for what we all know isn’t there.

Plan D. Drive to Rite Aide to see what they have left.  Even though there’s virtually nothing there either, we do have reason to smile.  Why?  Because we have the aisle to ourselves.  At least, for approximately 30 seconds before the rest of the mommies burst through the front door.  It appears the other mommies have had the same light drizzle (you can’t exactly call it a brainstorm).  Perhaps there will be something, anything at Rite Aide that might come close to resembling a costume.  Which brings us to Plan E.

Plan E.  This is where the real creativity of us procrastinating mommies begins to percolate.  We strategically place ourselves in front of the cashier at the Rite Aid counter, holding a piece of what used to be a costume, which has been dismantled from its price tag, hoping that the cashier will have a sudden case of mental pause and not remember the price.  Perhaps, we think to ourselves, the lady will see the panic on our faces, look at the clock and realize there’s only 10 minutes till the door-to-door candy campaign, and mark the price down because the store doesn’t want to get stuck with it. 

“How much?” I heard myself ask, only to add “If you give me a good price on it, I’ll take it off your hands.” 

Wishful thinking.  Fat chance. 

“That piece is $9.99," she answers.  

“For this?” “There’s nothing to it.  It’s a red thing.  The material alone at a fine fabric store would have cost me 50 cents.”  It appears that I’m not going to wind up with the red thing.  There’s absolutely no way I am going to spend $9.99 on a red thing.  The cashier is not a bit concerned.  She knows only too well that the mommy standing behind me in the check out lane is salivating, hoping I will put it back so she can get it for her kid.

Plan F. Run at top speed back to the car, drive back to Walmart, circle for the closest parking space, and rush to the aisle that has little boy’s sweat pants.  Buy a black pair of sweat pants for $4.95, and a black sweatshirt with a hood for $4.95. Race home and convince your kid that he is going trick or treating as Darth Vader.  I was one of the lucky mommies.  My child fell for it.  I also had a pair of sweat pants and a sweatshirt left from the big night that could be used as pajamas or an every day play outfit.  And it only cost $9.90. Nine cents less than the $9.99 I refused to pay. I win.

Procrastinating mommies understand each other.  We know we don’t have to worry about our nerves, because they’re already shot. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will still find ourselves in Walmart 10 minutes before Trick or Treat time next year.  How do I know?  Because while I was standing there some woman looked over at me and said, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”  Of course she had.  “That’s funny,” I grinned.  “I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

I am happy to report that I only succumbed to this Procrastinating Mommy routine a total of seven times before it hit me that Charley didn’t even like Halloween. He was terrified of the scary music people played at their houses. He was afraid of the goblins he met on the sidewalks. He cried and hid in the back seat of the car while we routed through his pumpkin bucket.

 Plan G: Let the kid decide.

And he did. At eight years old, Charley stood outside with his Batman cape and waited for what he called the “wittle kids.”

To this day, without fail, he announces, “I hate Hoween.” And at twenty-three years old, he still hands out the candy.

Well, minus a few Kit Kat bars.
Handing out the Candy

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Come On Out

This is Charley in his blanket. It's a red stadium blanket that once belonged to my grandmother, Florence McQuiston. In the morning Charley comes down the hallway with the blanket over his head. He then plops his rear end onto Brad's chair. "Find me Daddy," he says. 

What he wants is for Brad to open the front door and say, "Charley where are you?"

Charley sits under the blanket making not a sound.

Brad then runs around the room acting like he can't find him. "Charley, Charley, I can't find Charley. Come out, come out, wherever you are."

The blanket then gets flung off his head, and with a big wide grin, he says, "Here I are, Daddy. See?" And then he tackles Brad. And Brad braces for impact.

At 23 years old, Charley still plays. It's one of the things I love about him the most. He reminds us in the midst of everyday life that play is important. He works at his play, thinking up ways to play tricks on us, ways to get a good belly laugh. Like when he grabs Brad's feet and tickles them until Brad is screaming for mercy (he's left my feet alone since I hurt my leg - I guess there are some perks to a broken bone after all). But there is no mercy. It's a matter of getting the best yell out of Brad. Old Yeller, anyone?

On those days when Brad is quiet, pensive, or too tired to play (rare, I know), Charley shrugs his shoulders. "Weller boke" (yeller's broke), he says, which means he retreats to his room to plot. To think up something else that can get at Brad. You can't buy entertainment like that.

Did we know we'd signed up for this 23 years ago? Probably not. Did we know we'd wake up to find the dining room table set with our wedding china on those mornings when he couldn't sleep? Probably not. Did we know he would hide our car keys? Probably not. And had we had known, would we have gotten in line? The only answer to that is, yes.

23 years ago today, a 20 year old college student walked into an emergency room and gave birth to the rest of our lives.

Other 23 year olds are serving their country. Getting an education. Working. Getting married. 

Where won't you find most 23 year olds? You sure won't find them hiding underneath a stadium blanket. Or playing with their Daddy. 

23 years ago today, we were looking. He was waiting. We wanted to be parents. He needed a home.

We are all searching. Looking for that one thing. That thing that gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That thing that wraps itself around us. That thing that hugs us when we can't hug ourselves. That thing that turns life on its head, making us see the world in a different way. That thing that calls us out of ourselves. 

Amy Grant sings my favorite song, "Out in the Open."

         Come on out come on out 
         Come on out come on out 
         Out in the open 
         Come on out come on out 
         Come on out come on out 
         Into the light 
         There is no jury 
         There is no judge 
         Ready and waiting 
Are the steady arms of love 

Some of us find it sooner than others. 

Brad and I found it 23 years ago. Wrapped in a baby blanket. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Do What You Love

Charley and MissyKat in 2010

         In 2010, I went back to school. Brad said it best. "It's your turn, Sherry. Do what you love."

        So I filled out the student loan applications, made a joke about how, no, I wouldn't have to worry about paying it back because I'd be 95 before I ever finished my Masters. I then packed my suitcase, drove to Louisville, checked in at the Brown Hotel, and wondered what I was doing there. 

      I looked around. What was I doing in company like that? These were writers, after all. People who had confidence in themselves, in their writing, and were just there to hone their craft. I had never thought of myself as a writer, more like someone who likes to write. Still, I was there to learn. To write.

        During my first session, I was so discouraged that I almost quit. It was a session on how to write a short critical essay. The faculty member stood on stage, explaining the beauty of,“A Death in the Woods," by Sherwood Anderson. She asked questions of the students. And I, who had forgotten the duck tape for my big fat mouth, blurted something out. It was wrong. So wrong. And she let me know it, as she smirked and openly used me as an example of how NOT to write a short critical essay.

        I wanted to crawl under the nearest desk and die. I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw up all over her shoes. As I sat there, my cheeks burning, my eyes came to rest on a picture of Charley. I'd taped it to the front of my binder, as a reminder of what I was doing there. I was there to learn. To do what I love. To write.

        I was there to write about how I'd been unable to have a child of my own. How I'd had an ovarian cyst the size of a cantaloupe, leaving me with half an ovary to work with, and a myriad of DNCs, anemia, and a slim chance of pregnancy. How I'd stood by and watched my friends give birth, and when I'd realized I couldn't, I'd buried myself in work.

        I was there to write about how my husband contacted an adoption agency behind my back, and how my protest of adoption was short-lived, and thank God for that. Thank God for the birth mother who breathed life into me the minute he was placed in my arms.

        I was there to write about how well-meaning friends of my mother called asking if we knew what we were doing, and how we answered, "No," and how no child comes with instruction papers, not even special needs kids, and how it didn't matter because we were adopting him anyway, but thanks for calling.

        I was there to write about that face. Those ocean-blue crescent moon-shaped eyes, those turned up lips, the innocence that looks right through you, and the surrender to everything that is good and precious.

        I was there to write about heart. That heart that unconditionally wraps itself around you like a blanket, warming you like the sun, the son, the one who loves you no matter what. No matter how much money you make, no matter how beautiful, or skinny, or perfect, or not.

        I was there to write about how life can't get any sweeter because he fills you up with the honey of laughter, his zest for life, and gratitude for every minute of every day.

        Life with Charley is a learning curve. He challenges us, confuses us, inspires us. He gives without reserve, demanding that we be better people.

        Because of him, life is better than I ever thought it could be.

        In 1990, Charley took his first breath of life.

        In 2010, I signed up to write it. To learn. To put pen to paper and bring him to life on the page.

        He celebrates his 23rd birthday this weekend. 23 years of bringing me to life.

        In 2010, Brad said, "It's your turn, Sherry. Do what you love."

        To that I say - it's been my turn.

        I've been doing what I love, for 23 years.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Last night was our first outing as a family since I was injured in March. It's been a long time coming. We met some of our church members at an Irish pub in downtown Knoxville. 

Charley gobbled down a cheeseburger (and I don't mean a little one), some French fries, and polished off two Dr. peppers (no ice, of course), and then did some rocking down to some fantastic fiddle and guitar music by some of the locals. It was the most fun we've had in over six months. 

On the way home Charley said, "Muckshuck."

"You want a what?"


Brad and I looked at each other.  I know we haven't been out in a while, but geeze, he just ate his way through the pub. We both shook our heads. Like, sure, we've just spent X # of $ on the three of us, now he wants to get a milkshake.

"Ain't no way, Bub," Brad said. 

He turned up the volume. Maybe we hadn't heard him. "MUCKSHUCK."

"Shouting at me is NOT going to get you a milkshake," I shouted.

Well, that did it. Charley leaned forward in his seat and with a defiant flick of the wrist pointed at the radio. "MUCKSHUCK!"

Oh. Lord. "You mean music?"

Shoved a Beauty and the Beast CD at me.  "Yeah. Muckshuck."

"Would that be chocolate or vanilla?"


"Well, why didn't you say so?"

Thing is, he DID say so. With his own special brand of the tangled tongue, he all but spelled it out. It wasn't his fault that it took us three times to get it. I have to give him credit though, he was mighty patient with us and just kept repeating himself, until finally, it was too much and the CD provided the visual we needed.

There was only one thing to do. We played that CD, and all three of us sang at the top of our lungs, all the way home. It made up for us thinking he wanted a MUCKSHUCK.

It happens to all of us, tangled tongue or not. Someone, somewhere, hears us say something, and misinterprets what we say. 

Just because we think someone is listening doesn't mean they are. And just because they shake their heads up and down doesn't mean they get it. At least not always.

How easy is it to be misunderstood? To misunderstand? 

Thanks Son, for the reminder.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Damaged Goods?

I posted a comment earlier today. Here's the link: 

The thing is, someone had the audacity to look at my baby in his carrier and say, "But he's damaged."

Of course I was shocked. I never dreamed that a member of the church Brad served (we were in New Orleans at the time), could look at an innocent baby and refer to him as damaged. 

Brad and I hadn't made a big deal out of the fact that the baby we were adopting had Down Syndrome. As far as we were concerned, he was just a baby. We wanted no special treatment, or kudos, or anything different. We simply wanted to be parents. That's all.

We didn't seek to adopt a special needs child. We didn't wake up one morning and say, "Lets go get us a baby with Down syndrome." It sort of fell into our laps. It's one of those things that just happens. We had questions, of course. Who wouldn't? But otherwise, Charley was just a baby.

He had this way of looking right through me. His eyes were intense, almost as if to say, "We'll, you got me, now do something about me." 

As a new mother, I thought he was the cutest baby I'd ever seen. So when Mary Louise said, "But he's damaged," I gasped. 

"You're kidding, right? How can you call any baby damaged? He's a child of God, just like you. Just like me." 

She huffed out of the office. 

I looked at the baby. His sweet face, his innocence. His beauty. 


A friend of mine reminded me this morning after reading my post that we are all damaged goods, saved by the grace of God. 

Yesterday, Charley came out of his bedroom to ask me about his birthday party. "My birdday comin'?" He said.

"Yes Son, your birthday's comin'!" I assured him that we would not forget. We wouldn't forget his party, or his presents, or his cake with candles. 

"Don't worry, honey, we will remember." 

How could we forget? His face. His grin. His funniness. His laughter. His wholeness. 

It's weird, I know, but the comment that woman made so many years ago has stuck with me. Not because of the negative, but because of the reminder. It reminds me every day of how lucky I am. How blessed. How whole. How many years I've had love because of him. 


I don't think so. Do you?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Big Dig

This morning I asked Charley if he wanted to go an an archeological dig. He said, "Yeah!"
I said, "Do you know what that is?"
He said, "Yeah."
I said, "What?"
He said, "I no know."
I said, "It's when you dig for remains. Dinosaur bones. Buried treasure."
He stood in front of me.
"We'll, do you know of anywhere we might start digging?"
"That's what I thought you'd say, Son. How about we start beside the chair?"
We have a large, obnoxious red chair in our living room. That's where things get stashed when we want to hide them, or when we want to lose them. (Ordinarily, I would look myself, but since I broke my leg and I'm still on the walker, it's a little hard to manipulate myself into tight spaces like that).

"Let's look there for the yarn you dumped out of my brown tote bag when you needed something to carry your swimsuit to and from the Center."
He swallowed hard. "Oops'" he said.
"I am looking for the other ball of yarn that goes to the sock I finished knitting last night. As I recall, it was in that tote bag." 
I held up the sock. "See? This is what you are looking for."
Charley did a sort of nose-dive beside the chair.
He held up a bag with yarn. I looked through it.
"Sorry, look again." I said.
Next, he held up some separate yarns. I put them each into another bag. "No, keep looking."
Another bag of yarn. Another ball. Another bag. More wadded yarn. All went into the same bag. "This time it's all going to stay in the bag, right?"
About 10 minutes into the dig, he said, "I tired, Mom."
"Keep digging," I said. He grumbled.
"We'll, if you hadn't dumped my yarn out you wouldn't be working up a sweat."
Finally, he had a hit. "Aha!" 
He held up a partially knitted sock.
"That's it!" I said. "I started knitting it last year but it was too big." I would have unravel it, but so what. At least I could re-knit it.
He handed it to me and I smelled it. "That's funny, it doesn't smell like bologna," I said.
I wasn't sure if he would remember or not, but he used to hide his bologna sandwiches in my knitting when he was little. I'm not sure why, but he always did that when he was mad at me.
"You silly homan" (woman) he said.
"So. What do you think, Hoss? Did you work up an appetite?"
"Yeah," he said.
"I've got some bread and bologna in the fridge. You want a sandwich?"
He put his hands on his hips.
"Or, I could fry up some yarn."
"Stop it, Mom."
"Just teasing."
"I know," he said.
"You know, Son, you could find all kinds of great stuff if you'd ever clean that room of yours."
"No, not."
"You never know, you might find Fred Flinstone."
"Ha, ha."
He headed To his room and  shut the door behind him. "Guys, Mom cwazy." He was talking to his toys or his DVDs, I'm not sure which.
"I heard that," I yelled.
Truth be known though, I was relieved that he hadn't dumped my bag of yarn in his room.
By the time he'd have found it, the thing would have become a fossil. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Visit

Charley was with me when I fell. In an instant he went from a four-year-old maturity level (following me around the house wanting me to clean his DVDs) to a twenty-two-year-old man consumed with worry about his mother.

“Mom, okay?” he said, squatting, looking down at me, his lips quivering, trying not to cry.
“We’re in for a long day,” I said, between my screams.
And it was.

It’s the pits being separated from family. Not just for me, but for everyone. In the mornings Brad calls around seven o’clock. Sometimes Charley won’t get out of bed (a sure sign that all is not right with his world).

Brad puts us on the speakerphone.
“Charley, Mama’s on the phone.”
This usually gets him to open his eyes.

“Hi Mom.”

“Hi Charley, you up yet?”

“Umost (almost),” he says. “Mommy, I miss you.”

“I know you do, honey. I miss you too. Call me sometime today on your cell phone, and come see me tonight, okay?”

“Ok, Mom. Love you.”

“Love you too, Charley. I’m so proud of you for helping Daddy.”


“I can’t wait to see you tonight.”

“Me too.”

Charley’s been a rock through this whole ordeal. He comes to see me every day for about an hour.

When he gets here his priorities fall in this order:

1.)  Fling open the door, followed by an announcement. “It’s me, Charley Palmer, your son.”

2.)  Dump whatever he’s carrying onto the bed (that’s where he will veg out for however long he’s here.)

3.)  If he’s lucky enough to get here close to mealtime, he looks on my tray to see if there’s anything for him (scrambled eggs, Salisbury steak, tater tots, stuff like that).

4.)  Kiss me on the cheek

5.)  Ask for the TV remote (this means he gets to watch anything he wants while Brad and I visit).

About an hour into visit he says, “Daddy, go home now?” It’s hard to let him go, it seems like he just got here, but he knows when he’s had enough so it’s best to say our goodbyes.

On his way out he says to the nurses aides, “Take good care my Mom.”

They assure him that they will.

Most times before he leaves he sits down next to my leg or bends over and pats it. Then he kisses it.

“All butter now?” he says.

How could it not be?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

Gizmo in the sink!

My husband is a human alarm clock. It doesn’t matter how much sleep he’s had or not had, he is up every morning and in the shower by 5:00. He’s quiet so I can sleep because he knows I’ve been up several times during the night keeping an eye on Mr. Insomnia (Charley), who often roams the floor while the rest of the world is sleeping (he has no concept of time, only that either the sun is out or it’s dark). 

Sometimes he lands on the couch with all the lights on, but most times he sits on his bed watching his TV pausing only to make his occasional trek to the refrigerator to swipe the milk or to see what’s in there, as if anything has changed.

Living with an insomniac has become a way of life for me, and it’s no big deal to have to get up, go to his room and tell him to turn the volume down on his TV or his radio.

This morning, Brad slept a little longer than usual and I was the one up at 5:00. Charley was asleep. I headed to the little girls room and thought about writing for a couple of hours while it was quiet, which is a rarity in our house. 

Call me an undisciplined writer if you want, but back to bed I went. I have to admit that I tossed and turned, trying to turn off my brain so I could fall back asleep.

But just as my eyes finally shut and the sand man came calling, I heard a familiar sound. It was Gizmo (our cat). Not now, Gizmo. At first I dismissed it. Perhaps it was Charley’s television. Or, maybe not. Just go away and let me sleep. Or, not, because he turned up the volume. “Meow. Me-ow. MEOW.” Like, “Help! Help!” My feet hit the floor and back to the bathroom I went.

“Come on, Gizmo,” I said, and started to open the bathroom door. And that would have been the end of that, except for one thing. Gizmo had managed to reach down under the sink and open the drawer, blocking the door, which left no wiggle room – half an inch at the most. Gizmo was trapped.

Back to the bedroom I went, to get Mr. Alarm Clock. “He must have followed you into the bathroom,” Brad said, slamming his body into the door. 

Plan B. Get the backscratcher. Maybe we could use it to close the drawer. New problem: not enough room to insert the stick and no leverage. 

Plan C. Grab a coat hanger and twist it to make a hook. New problem: Brad twisted the hook but it broke off in his hand. 

Plan C, continued. Get another coat hanger, only, this time don’t twist the top off. Bend it, turn the hook just so, and voila, you’re everybody’s hero. Except for one thing; it didn’t work. 

Plan D. Fuss at each other.

“If you had looked behind you, you’d have seen the cat.”

“If you hadn’t put Charley’s medicine in the bathroom cabinet, we wouldn’t be in such a frenzy to get them out.” (Had we forgotten about Gizmo?).

“If you…”

Gizmo chimed in, “Meow.”

Plan E. Stick a knitting needle through the hole in the lock on the door. Somehow Brad was able to slide the drawer closed and Gizmo went flying into the hallway and ran off.

Well, we were both up, so let the coffee begin.

Meanwhile, Mr. Insomnia was busy cutting Z’s.