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?