It's Prom time. That coming of age rite of passage, where the stars shine on those decked out like princes and princesses.
Its a night of hopes and dreams. A night of formals, hairdos, tuxedos corsages and bling.
For us parents of special needs individuals, the anticipation is enough to kill us. Please God, let the phone ring. Please God, let my daughter, (or my son) be asked to the prom. Please God, don't let my child sit home alone while everyone else has a date.
We all know that prayer. It's silent, yet so loud it screams.
It's also a time to breathe. That bottomless exhale when the look on your kid's face says there's an invitation on the other end of the phone.
That's the way it was when Karri called. I knew she was calling. She's told me. I was so excited I thought I might burst. So I waited. Knowing the call was coming.
You know that moment when the phone rings and it's for you? That moment when there's an angel face on the other end wanting to know if you will be her date to the prom? Yeah, that moment. That's the one I want to freeze in time. The one that makes you pinch yourself as a reminder not to embarrass him with over excitement.
He hangs up the phone. "Whelp, I got me date," he says.
"How many proms does one guy need?" you ask him.
"Stop it, Mom."
It's not like this is his first prom. Far from it. He went last year. He went the year before that. There's a reason we call him, "Mr. Prom." And each time, he's managed to get a date. But not just any date. Each girl, Jordan, Miranda, and now Karri, were the girl of his dreams. The stuff bragging rights are made of. Nice going, Son.
And what about that moment when he comes to the library where you work and whispers to you, "Mom, I take a shower," and you know that's his "man-moment," when you don't have to tell him what to do because he's already manned up.
There will be none of that kid stuff tonight. Tonight is for men. Not little boys. And what about reminding him to use soap? Forget about it. That was yesterday's kid. Tonight he's sporting his man face. See the pride? Tonight he's not that special needs young man, he just a man at a dance.
And what about that moment when you slip him a wrist corsage to present to his date and he says in your ear, "Her gorjust!"
"Tell her that, Mr. Prom." you say, and you're not sure, but is he blushing? See the twinkle in his eye? "Stop it, Mom," he says.
And that moment when he flashes that smile for the picture, but you'd best not push it because time's a wastin', there's serious dancing ahead.
But even so, there's a moment reserved for you. That moment when the last thing he does on his way out the door is turn for one last look at his Mom and blows you a kiss.
And what about that moment when he bursts through the door following the prom with story after story about his "good moves" on the dance floor and how he danced to "Grease Lightening," and how he "had a beer!" And he waits for your reaction, and he holds up a can of root beer and grins.
And at the end of the night when he's stretched out on the couch, and the dance is hours old, but the dreams still linger, and he gives you that happy grin and whispers,"Pssst...Mom. I had fun."
You know he did. He's in his happy place. That place you live for. That place that makes every minute of every day with worth it.
You wonder if Karri knows. Does she have any idea that she did this? That the smile on his face belongs to her? That no matter how bright the stars shine, no matter how they light up the night, that she is the star that lit up his world? His face?
Does she know that because of her, his dreams will be a little sweeter tonight?
She is the one who could have entered the dance on any arm, yet his was the one she chose. Does she have any idea that because she shined her light on him, the last words he said to me tonight were, "I'm happy, Mom."?
That makes two of us.
Sweet dreams, Mr. Prom.
* * *
Note: The young lady on my son's arm is Karri Byrd. Charley met her when she was a Peer Tutor at Gibbs High School. Karri is now studying to be a Special Education teacher. She'll be good at it, too. She is a remarkable person who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.
Karri invited Charley to the Prom for Special Students that was organized by the Teachers at Gibbs and Carter High Schools. This event is one that takes a great deal of planning and effort.
I hope that this blog will let all involved in this effort know just how special it is for the students, and how much us parents appreciate all they do. I am in awe of their generosity and kindness, and how they love their students and create every opportunity for them.
And one more thing...even though Charley graduated from Gibbs in 2013, the teachers and peer tutors have not forgotten about him. Thank you. All of you. Charley's life is full because of you.
A note to you, the reader:
Thank you for taking time to read my blog.
If you liked this story and would enjoy more, please read "Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption." You can find it at: