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.

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