Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pappy Knee Year

Staying home from work today. I hate that. I'm a strange duck. I like working. But since I'm grounded, it seems like a good day to write a blog. My knee (the good one) is giving me some problems. Went to the emergency room yesterday, with Charley in tow. On the way to the hospital we talk about how it's a new year, and how it's going to be better than last year.

We're all going to behave this year. We're going to eat right, we're going to get skinny, and...and...

We get to the hospital and Charley goes inside to bring me a wheelchair. While Brad parks the car, Charley wheels me to the registration desk where a pretty, sweet young lady sits. 

Registration lady: Have you been here before?

Me:  Yes. (Of course I have, I've practically lived here since my accident).

Charley: Um... Ma'am, dis my Mom.

She nods and smiles at him.

Registration lady: What seems to be the problem?

Me: My right knee hurts so bad. I can barely walk on it. I felt something pop the other day and it's been hurting ever since.

Charley: Ma'am, my Mom hurt. You helpin' her.

Registration lady: When did it start?

Me: Last Tuesday. I went to the quick care center in Kentucky while I was there for Christmas.

Charley: You awe Purty. He raises his eyebrows up and down like Groucho Marks. 

Registration lady: Thank you. (Another smile)

She places an identification band on my wrist, and directs us to the waiting area.

Charley waves goodbye and says, "Call me!"

Physician Assistant appears: What seems to be the problem?

Me: My right knee hurts so bad. I can barely walk on it. I felt something pop the other day and it's been hurting ever since.

Charley: Um Sir, dis my Mom.

Physician Assistant: When did it start?

Me: Last Tuesday. I went to the quick care center in Kentucky while I was there for Christmas.

Charley: Sir, my Mom hurt. You helpin' her.

Physician Assistant: I need to get some information from you. 

What existing health problems so you have?

What are your current medications and doses?

Are you allergic to any drugs?

Do you smoke?


Drink Alcohol? 


Partake of street drugs?


Have a history of mental illness?

Not yet.

Charley: Um, Sir, My Mom knee hurt. 

Physician Assistant: Let's get you to the examination room so I can take a look.

About this time Brad shows up. He and Charley wait for me to come back.

Physician Assistant looks at my knee. Asks more questions. Leaves to write a prescription. Anti-inflammatory - that's about the best he can do for now. Tells me to make an appointment with the Doctor and wraps my knee with an ace bandage. Writes on the triage sheet that it was easy to determine the nature of the injury. Um...not from where I'm sitting. 

Nurse number 1 enters. 

What happened, Mrs. Palmer?

My right knee is hurting. I can barely walk on it. I felt something pop the other day and it's been hurting ever since.

She takes my blood pressure. Pulse. Listens to my breathing. 

What existing health problems so you have?

What are your current medications and doses?

Are you allergic to any drugs?

Do you smoke?


Drink Alcohol? 


Partake of street drugs?


Have a history of mental illness?

Well, Not yet.

Hands me some prescriptions and follow-up orders. Tells me I can go.

Nurse number two appears with a wheelchair to escort me to back to the area where Charley 
Brad are waiting.

But first, takes my blood pressure. Listens to my heart. Takes my pulse.

Moments later, we're in the waiting area. There stands Charley with a cup of coffee he found in the lobby. "Here Mom, dis help in' you. Dis you fell butter."

He says to the nurse, "Call me!" Like, sure, that's gonna happen. 

Brad goes to get the car and arrives moments later. Charley turns to wave goodbye for a second time to the registration lady.

She gives him a little wave. Happy New Year! 

He waves back. Pappy knee year!

Charley: "Dwink you coffee, Mom."

I look into the cup. No Splenda. No cream. Just plain old black coffee. Not the way I like it. Not by a long shot. Still, I tip the cup and take a sip. I look into those concerned blue eyes of his, and wouldn't you know it? I've been to the hospital, been seen by a physician's assistant and two well-meaning nurses, and that cup of Joe is just what the Doctor ordered.


Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption

Thursday, December 18, 2014

God Things

For some reason, this post will not maintain a consistent font size throughout. That's okay though, as long as you have x-ray vision toward the end of the post. Though tiny, I mean it just as much as the rest of the post - maybe even more. God things come in good packages. Don't adjust your screen - that wasn't a typo. I meant to say God things. Chromosomes are God things.

Sometimes I look into the eyes of my precocious, funny, sweet-natured, son and wonder how the world got so lucky.  How did I get so lucky? God must have loved us all so much to have handed out those God things known as extra chromosomes. True, they aren't for everyone. Only a select few are to know the wonder. The forever innocence. The dance of Down syndrome. 

"But Sherry, you don't know the heartache of waiting 9 months for the perfect child only to have your hopes and dreams crushed by a An extra chromosome called Down Syndrome," you might say.

That's true. Those of you who know me already know my story, how Charley came to live with us. 
Just because I didn't wait for 9 months for the perfect baby doesn't mean I didn't want one. The thing is, in my opinion, I got one. 

When I read about that nut case in Denmark who thought it would benefit the world if those who have been blessed with an extra chromosome were eliminated from the human race, I wept. Then I went directly to Amazon and purchased Mardra Sikora's essay, "Arguing Eugenics." 

Want to know more about this heated issue? Mardra explains it in this well-written essay that is grounded in research and personal experience, Mardra Sikora's "Arguing Eugenics" extends beyond the subject of genetic testing (for the purpose creating a society free from the burden of Down syndrome) and into the heart of a world in danger of eliminating much more than an extra chromosome. As a writer and mother of a young adult with Down syndrome myself, I applaud Sikora's ability to lay out the facts while making the reader think with their hearts through the logic of her son Marcus.

"Arguing Eugenics"(You can find it on Amazon), takes a subject often written about in medical and technical terms, and fine tunes the lens to so those unfamiliar with Down syndrome can see clearly how whole communities would suffer the consequences of eliminating often the most compassionate among us. If I were to sum it up, I would wager to say that a world without Down syndrome is a world in danger of reducing itself to breathing in and out. While Sikora does not glamorize naïveté regarding special needs individuals, be it children with cancer or those who are born with spinal bifida, rather, she is a realist who sees the value in every human life, while charging the rest of us to do the same. What gives anyone the right to decide who has value and who does not? What gives anyone the right to decide that another human being is a burden? I agree with Sikora one-hundred percent, no one has the right to set that criteria. Not Denmark, not anyone.

I found Sikora's essay to be an invaluable piece of research delivered with wisdom. Mostly, however, I found it to be a fair synopsis of the lives faced everyday by special needs families. There is no perfect person. Aiming for a perfect world filled with only perfect people (which means a world without that extra chromosome) is no world I want to live in. I cannot imagine a world without the unconditional love of individuals with Down syndrome. Apparently, neither can Sikora.

There is a society, however that does not agree. If Denmark is knocking on that door, I say don't open it. Be very afraid. When one knocks others do too. Before we know it, Down syndrome will cease to exist, and so will life as we know it for our loved ones who are game changers.

The choice is ours. Want a perfect world? Step right up. Get your one-way ticket to Denmark. Personally, I'd rather count my God things. My chromosomes. Want a world of perfect unconditional love and acceptance? Then send in the Down. Rock on, Marcus. Be that agent of change that Sikora writes about. Be that God thing. And listen up folks, don't even think of sweeping this one under the rug. Sikora is in the house.

We adopted Charley twenty-four years ago at Christmas time. Believe me, there is nothing you could wrap and stick under the tree that could come close to the gift God game me that day. It was the perfect God-thing gift. Did we know what to expect? What to do? How do do it? No. 

But here's one thing I do know. When I count my blessings, I count God-things. That includes chromosomes.

Merry Christmas to me.


Sherry Palmer is the author of "Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption" (available at Amazon)

Friday, December 12, 2014

In the Advent if a Hootenanny

Rerunning this post from Christmas of 2012 in response to the Facebook question of what was my favorite John Knox Camp moment...it's something that couldn't be wrapped in a box, amd one of my favorite CharleyMoments ever...enjoy!

     Sometimes it must be hard to be Charley. Wanting to fit in. Sitting on the fence of different and same. If he stays on the side of different, the way is cleared for him to be a twenty-two year old boy in a man’s body, refusing to take a shower. If he stays on the side of sameness, wanting to be like everyone else, then what we have is a man in a man’s body, expected to take the shower like a man.

         What we forget is that his Down syndrome is the gateway to rising to the next level. The person who sat in the back seat asking, “Where goin’ Daddy?” is the same person who went with us to the Camp and Conference center for an Advent dinner Friday evening. He didn't want to go. Not for one moment did he want to put on a suit coat, and hang out with us old fogies. Typical.

            From the moment we arrived, he tried his best to mingle. Those of us who live with Down syndrome know only too well how the tangled tongue gets in the way of casual conversation, so he stood with chatting people, trying to act like them, until he couldn't stand it. “I got me wawet,” he blurted. But try as they might, they had no idea what he was saying, and quizzed him until he finally pulled out his wallet only to show them a picture of Harry, from Harry and the Henderson’s.

            So much for mixing. He plopped onto the couch and slumped into the cushions. I walked over to see if he was okay. “Dis bo-wing,” he said.  And why wouldn’t he be bored? The people at the party ddidn'tspeak CharleyEase, which made him odd man out. Meanwhile, I felt a lump in my throat and visited with other partygoers, while watching him out of the corner of my eye. Poor guy. Poor him. Poor man who wants to fit in.

            “He’s doing well,” someone said. “You aren’t kidding,” I said, because right about then in walked a blonde girl (we’ll call her Girl #1), and she was what Charley would call, “Hot.” And just like that, he had a date. Well, he had a dance. The music duo played their guitar and fiddle. Hootenanny, anyone?

            He thanked Girl #1 for the dance, and in my watchful silence I thanked her too, for saving an evening that had the potential to crush my son under the weight of the knowledge that he was and always will be Downs and that there’s not a thing he can do bout that.

Still, Girl #1 put a smile on his lips, and just as we thought that was that, in walked Girl #2, a brunette, who accepted his invitation to dance.

The next time I looked, he was dining at Girl #2’s table, following her to the buffet, helping himself to an iced tea he had no intention of drinking, and glaring at me like I’d better stop watching him or else. I tried not to look. I did. But what kind of mother would I be if I didn't give him a dirty look when he used his sleeve as a napkin?

            Meanwhile, Girl #2 spent the rest of the evening with him, and Charley was no longer odd man, he was simply a man.
Because different or same, when you have DS it doesn't matter which side of the fence you’re on, as long as the girl’s on your side.

Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Season's Ringings

This is one of my favorite pictures of Charley. It's not the prettiest, but it is one that makes his Mama proud.

I posted this story in 2012 and well, I like it, so I'm posting it again. I like it because not only is it a picture of he and his Dad, it captures Charley stepping out of himself and doing something for somebody else. It also connects him to tne Kiwanis Club of Norwood as they ring the bells for the Salvation Army here in Knoxville. You must understand, this Kiwanis Club has all but adopted Charley and he's quite proud of that. Not only have they walked on his behalf in the Buddy Walk for the Down Syndrome Association of East Tennessee, they have also made him an honorary Kiwanian. And a very special honor it is.

So, here is the re-run of ringing the bells in 2012.

I call this one, "Season's Ringings..."

T’was the day of Black Friday and all through the town, the ringers were ringing, that holiday sound…

We see them every year, the bell ringers, the freezing few who stand outside the stores, reminding us shoppers that there are those in our communities who need our help.

When Charley was younger he’d try to talk the ringers out of their bells. “I me one,” he’d say, and Brad would give him a dollar to put in the bucket and then we’d be off on our way to celebrate the season.

He’s twenty-two now, and he still wants the bell. Every year he says, “I have it?” as he puts his dollar in the bucket.

So. Brad decided this year would be different. This year, Charley would get the bell. At least for a little while.
“Where goin’ Dad?”

“We’re ringing the bells,” Brad said.


“Because there are people whose needs will go unmet if we don’t. People are hungry, cold, and lonely. Bell ringing provides food and shelter. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about the loneliness.”


“Yeah, Charley, there are lots of people who have no one to share their lives and that makes them lonely. We have to reach out to them.”

“Okay, Dad,” Charley said, as he put on his red apron and picked up a bell.

Ring, ring. Ring-a-ding dingy. The two men in my life set out to keep people from being cold and hungry.

Now, if I recall from years past, the ringers stand still, and their arms go up and down, ringing. But at no time do I remember the ringer dancing and singing, but where tradition ends, Charley begins, and new traditions are born.

Dancing, ringing, singing, and informing everyone on their way into the store, “Need money here,” pointing to the bucket, doing the happy dance. That’s the Charleyway. 

Into the bucket went a dollar.

“Kanku,” Charley said. “Oh sir, money pwease.”  Plunk, another dollar.

One poor woman was heading into the store.

“Hello, Maam, you got money?”

“I’ve already given several times,” she said.

“Again!” he said. “Money fo da po, over here.”

Into her purse went her hand, and yep, out came a dollar.

Shopper after shopper, the teenage girls got a handshake or a hug (no one’s lonely on Charley’s corner). Even the kids gave him money. “Call me,” he’d say as they slapped him a high-five. Unless they didn’t give. Then he’d clear his throat and say, “Uh-hem. S’cuuuuse me, you got money?”

Brad told Charley that soliciting was one thing, hounding was another. “You are NOT to embarrass people into giving,” he said.

“I no bawassacud, Daddy. I winging da bell, dey got dollars.”

“But you’re not supposed to chase people down the sidewalk, Son…and you are NOT to hit them up twice.” The thing is, Charley would collect a dollar on their way into the store, and then talk them out of another on their way out.  One man admitted to stopping at the ATM because he didn’t want to come face to face with Charley. Not unless the happy dance followed.

Maybe it’s his Down syndrome innocence that opens the hearts around him. I don’t know. But I do know this; sometimes it takes a special needs person to remind you that if you are going to give, give with your whole body.

If you are going to ring, make sure the bell is heard.

And if you venture out this season, do it with a dollar in your pocket.

You never know where Charley might be lurking. I mean ringing.

                                                      *  *  *

Sherry McCaulley Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.