One of my favorite movies is “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. In one scene, the guys are working with a crusty old miner, who, frustrated with Butch and his partner, laments, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.”
As Timothy was dragged through the crowds of shoppers at Ikea on Saturday, he looked like he was ready to utter these same words about his family. As we serpentined through Housewares, searched for shortcuts and tried in vain to walk against the sea of people, Timothy could only shake his head in disbelief. He had to be wondering whose bright idea it was to not only come to Ikea at a peak weekend time, but to think that having a stroller in this mass of people would be a good idea. The boy needed no words to convey his exasperation.
Laura brought Timothy into our bed this morning to ‘top off’ his sleep. As he lay on his back, occasionally closing his eyes to give us a ray of hope of slumber, Timo was more focused on playing with my hair. He was gently stroking my bangs, and then suddenly reached up and pulled my hair really hard. And as much as my roots were screaming for him to stop, I couldn’t help to laugh that he was so committed to the tug of war that his head and shoulders rocked backward while his feet flew up in the air. He looked like he was in zero gravity, or maybe more like a one person teeter totter.
It’s always interesting when your eyes get opened. Once we had Timothy and knew that he had Down syndrome, we started noticing many people around us with disabilities. Whether at the grocery store, at church, or anywhere in between, we apparently had always been surrounded by these folks and never knew it. So it shouldn’t be surprising that when Elisabeth decided to study in India next year, we started seeing more Indian people. When Laura and Timothy and I went to a nearby mall to get some exercise (yes, we’re under 60, and we admit that we were ‘mall walking’….. c’mon, I think it was cold outside). Anyway, we saw so many Indian people there that it felt like we were in a Bollywood movie.
It struck me that we, like many people, already have plenty to think about and usually keep our blinders on and focus on our own little universe. In the process, we risk missing a lot of richness around us every single day. Our recent experiences are opening up our lens a little.
English is quickly becoming a second or third language in our house. Elisabeth is starting to learn Hindi (the primary language in India), and all of us are trying to pick up sign language to help communicate with Timothy. And T is learning a little English on the side. Pretty soon, we’re going to have to buy those translation headphones that they use at the UN so that we can understand each other in this Tower of Babbling.
One part of getting Timothy to communicate with us involves giving him choices in every day items. We hold out two books, and it’s neat to watch the look on his face, like a contestant on Let’s Make a Deal, as he mulls over his choices. In addition to being a good way for him to communicate and as cute as he is when he ponders, it provides a little TRBL Top 40 as he ranks his favorites. If Casey Kasem were on the microphone, he would say “After hanging onto the top spot for three weeks, Little Blue Truck fell back to earth this week, losing out to an oldie but goodie, Harold and the Purple Crayon.”
It’s funny to watch the shifting preferences of the carrot topped taste maker.
Little Blue Truck used to be the only thing he wanted to read a few weeks ago, but now the TRBL focus group demands more character development and plot in his board books.
Which is why the book Pickles the Fire Cat has taken over. Now, all of our family love dogs, but I am the only one who is not a fan of cats. But I have to credit felines and specifically Pickles for giving Timothy one of the things that he really responds to. We point to a picture of Pickles and ask him, “What does a cat say?” Timothy takes a moment to compose himself, clears his throat and lets loose his interpretation of the ‘meow’.
I’d better sneak more Clifford the Big Red Dog books into Timothy’s reading line up before the girls go looking for kittens.
P.S. Once again we are going to do the Polar Plunge this year to raise money for Special Olympics. It’s on Saturday March 2nd and any of you – adults, kids (not family pets) – are welcome to join Team TRBL and jump into chilly Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.