Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mr. Prom

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stranger Danger

Have you ever known someone so sweet that they have no fear?

That’s Charley.

Everybody’s friend

And, as far as he’s concerned, everybody is his friend, too.

Here’s how things work at my house…

Charley is the neighborhood greeter. He stands out on the front step and waves to everyone. "Hey fwent!" 

Sometimes they wave back. Sometimes they ignore him properly.

He watches everyone.

“Look Mom, dat guy over dere.” Meaning, that guy is mowing lawn.
“Dat guy got da mail.” And so should he.

“Dat guy work da house.” Meaning, that guy has power tools. They make lots of noise. That makes him cool. Maybe he’d like to come to our house and tell us all about it.

And so it was.

I’m busy doing laundry, and sit down to take a break. I’m bending over, rummaging in my knitting bag for my latest project, and better hurry with it, or Mom’s birthday will be here before I’m finished.

“See? Dat my Mom,” he says.

I look up. There’s a man with long curly hair standing in the living room.

Oh Lord.

The man introduces himself as “Ron,” and squats down to pet the cat.

We chat for a moment, but inside I’m freaking out.

A man in the living room.

A man I’ve never seen before.

The man tells me he is working on the house across the street, building a play room for the new neighbors.

He seems nice enough, but he’s in my living room and I’ve never seen him before.

“See?” Charley says to me after the man leaves.

“Charley, you know better than to invite some stranger into the house like that.”

Or does he?

I remember telling him over and over not to open the door to strangers if they knock.

But did I ever tell him not to invite someone in?

How many times has he been in the living room and I’ve brought a friend home. Someone he didn’t know? True, I didn’t flag them in from off the street, but still, he didn’t know them. And what did I do? I introduced them. "Say hi, Charley."

Charley has a dilemma. He sees what I do. Then I tell him not to do it.

He’s 24. Should he be able to invite a friend in?

He has no concept of my-stranger-is-ok, but-yours-is-not.

As Charley gets older, I admit I let my guard down more than I used to.

I let him go outside by himself more. He empties the garbage. Most of the time he comes back. When he doesn’t, we go fetch him.

Sometimes he takes a detour, such as to the house across the street to invite “Ron” to the house.

It’s scary to see a stranger in your house.

Now, you must understand, I’m not afraid when Charley’s around. At least, I try not to be.

He’s strong and even though he is smaller than that guy, I have no doubt he could beat him up and leave him begging for mercy if provoked. All those years of carrying the TV from his room to the living room and back again every 15 minutes because he couldn't decide where he wanted to watch it didn't leave my son without muscles. 

Not that I want him inviting the neighborhood into the house, but if he decides they are all to come calling, then so be it.

The thing that gives me pause is this…Charley has no fear. No filter. No what-if?

What if that guy isn't a good guy?

What if Mom doesn't want to entertain right now?

What if I get in trouble for bringing ol’ Ron into the house unannounced? 

It's not a good situation, this open house, come-on-in. This Ya'll-com-back-now-ya-hear? No, it's downright dangerous. I've spent countless times explaining how he could get hurt. How I could get hurt. It's not that he doesn't care, it's that it doesn't register. 

I'll say, "Charley, inviting someone to the house that you don't know is dangerous."
He looks at me and grins, like, Dat guy? Can't you see how nice dat guy is? And he says, "Come on..."

It makes no sense to him. Such is the communication gap. The schism of reasoning that sets Charley apart from other thinkers. He wants to be regarded as a man, and most of the time he is. But it is times like these when the innocence of that 21st chromosome gets in the way. 

That being said, stranger danger and all, I have to admit that even though he sometimes scares me to death, I try to remind myself to look for the good. There has to be something good about this, and there is. He sets an example with his neighborliness. His unconditional acceptance of his fellow man.

 I admire him. 

I often wonder what it must be like to be Charley. To live your life as if everyone has your best interest at heart.

What if we all lived our lives like that?

What if we all treated strangers as if they were our new best friend? 

What if we brought them fried chicken on the first night in their new house? Brad did that the night they moved in.

What if we invited people in?

Most of us keep the world out.

We keep ourselves closed.

What if we were a little more neighborly? What if we approached the other guy like Charley does...why can't we be fwents?

What if we walked across the lawn and said, “Hi” ?

If we did that, the stranger in our house wouldn't be so strange after all.

And just to clear this up, no, I don’t particularly want a strange guy in my living room.

Charley and I will have a little chat about that.

Right after I walk across the lawn and meet the new neighbors.

*  *  *

Sherry Palmer is the author of Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption, available on