King’s In the Corner

To be a child

It was about 3 years ago, that I had met Marilyn. The wheelchair would come out of the van and she’d power herself into the bowling alley. Her daughter has Down’s Syndrome, and this woman as frail as she seemed, was truly a powerhouse.

I met her son, John. He was my age, and we described the similarities of our lives. Both of our mothers were the same age, and had raised us without a man.

His pride in his mother’s accomplishment was apparent. We both were amazed at the strength which was demanded of our mothers in the era that frowned upon single women trying to raise children, especially special needs children. The public didn’t have much sympathy for women like this. It was almost as if divorce was a contagious disease.

Now, looking back, I have more understanding of my mother and the reason for her moodiness.

But Marilyn, did not show this side of herself. I had gotten to know her and the two other women at the table. We sat as at a table as we watched the special needs bowler’s. All of these women had a son or daughter participating. I had my brother.

Marilyn, Muriel, and Yvonne, invited me to play cards with them. They taught me how to play, King’s In the Corner. As we commiserated about our current issues on health care, for our loved ones, and the care involved. Our personal lives discussed over suits of Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds. Amazing how sharp these gray-haired women were. I couldn’t keep up with them at times.

I went through all my issues with discussions leading to advice and hugs. Muriel, the outspoken one in the group, had a soft side. She would tell people off, if she got angry. She once told a guy, who happened to be a coach, to “grow up!” She let him know that his, stirring up my son, with his antics, were not appreciated. When the guy looked at me and stated, “His mother hasn’t told me to stop!” Muriel responded, “She doesn’t have to! I’m telling you and I know she doesn’t like it!”  I laughed at how aggressive she was, at her age. She had no fear. Yet, when I was depressed about something, she would come and put a gentle arm around my shoulders and tell me, “Hang in there kid.”

We were playing one night and right in the middle of the game, Marilyn slumped over in her wheelchair. I saw a look of alarm on Muriel’s face. As we tapped Marilyn and called her name, she still did not respond. She had an oxygen tube in her nose. At this point her son, John walked in and tapped her. She seemed to wake up instantly and Muriel looked at me and mouthed the words, “I thought she was dead!” Yes, I sure did as well, and wondered if I might have to employ CPR. Whew! I was just glad that I wasn’t needed and it turned out her oxygen was turned way down, and it was causing her to fall asleep.

She would laugh as we caught her a few times, messing up the game or trying to cheat. We were never sure, if she was conscious of what she was doing, however, she was sharp as could be. Which led me to believe, she was bluffing.

Nice try, Marilyn. After a year or so, we moved to a new location, and added anther player. Matthew’s grandmother. A sweet little lady and quite energetic. Matthew is one of the sweetest boys. His case is particularly sad, since his disabilities were caused when he’d been in a car accident with his parents, as a toddler. I still remember the first time I watched him bowl. I had to turn around because I was crying. He looks as if he’s struggling to get up to his lane and that he’s about to fall right over, as he violently throws the ball forward. As it careens down the lane, he gets strikes more often than not.

I went to the banquet where I danced with Matthew quite a few times and just to see the smile on his face warmed my heart. All of these kids are so special.

Last year I went to Marilyn’s birthday party at her daughter’s house. All of the kids from the bowling night were there, along with their parents. Marilyn’s daughter lovingly served her all night and it was sweet to see the relationship all of Marilyn’s children had with her.I got to know her family very well and was blessed to be a part of this special day.

I had a great picture of Marilyn from the picnic we had been at the year before and I gave this to her on her birthday. At this picnic, I took a couple of hula hoops out of my trunk that had been in there for years. Who knew that  these simple hoops could inspire such childlike joy in so many? As everyone took a turn, I heard Marilyn speaking in her soft voice. “Let me try that, ” she said. “Oh, Marilyn, I sure will!” Being a former hula expert, I knew that even in a chair, this woman could show some skills. She grabbed the hoop and started spinning on her wrist. She was laughing like a little girl and I was laughing just watching the show. It made me remember my own youth, when I could hula from my neck, to my ankles and did the wrist hula, transferring it back and forth between arms.

Next her health care aide grabbed it, and with her big belly, she slid that thing down. Just watching this woman, made us laugh until tears were running down our faces. She didn’t care. She was a child again. As Marilyn’s daughter took a turn and my son and I, and many other’s, I thought, this is what heaven is like.

Later, I looked at my pictures and laughed again, to see how old and young alike, had been transformed into little kids, by the power of a circular piece of plastic.

A few weeks ago, Marilyn’s son John sat with us. Marilyn was in the hospital. He had tears in his eyes as he told me about her struggle. At one point he told me her heart had stopped, but right before this, she looked into space and exclaimed, “It so beautiful!” He said, I wanted to know what she saw, so I asked her. Mom, what is so beautiful?” As the doctor’s brought her back, she looked at him and said, “When am I checking out of here?” He said, “I never got to find out what she saw.” “Well, ” I told him, “You found out just enough. It’s what the Lord wanted you to witness. Death is not an end, but a beginning. I’ll be praying for you and her, I said.

Last night, I came to the bowling alley and as I walked in, I almost knew. There was the flyer on the table. Marilyn had passed away. I walked over to Muriel and Matthews grandmother. My son and I sat down and talked about Marilyn and how much we were going to miss her. Muriel told me that her daughter, Barbie,was not real upset. “Well, that’s the blessing with these kids. They do not experience the deep sorrow, which we experience,” I told her. “I still remember when my brother Chris died, and Kevin pointed at his casket and said, “He still owes me $5.” We all laughed.

My son filled in for Marilyn, and we played our game as we talked. Yvonne had health problems and hadn’t been coming for a few months so our group is getting smaller. But for these past few years, I have been blessed by all the wisdom, which comes with age and experience.

 Tonight we went to the funeral and I decided to get copies of the pictures from the picnic, for John. As I walked in, I looked up and there was a big digital screen with pictures of Marilyn and her life. Much to my surprise, there was that beautiful picture of her, spinning the hula hoop on her arm. As I handed the pictures to John and told him, I brought them for him, he said, “Oh, that was your picture?” “Yes, I love that picture of her.” “Oh,” he said. “You know that’s one of the pictures we picked for tonight.” “Yes,” I said. “I saw that. We missed her at the table last night.” The tears welled up in his eyes once again. “Don’t forget about those words she had spoken. She is truly in a beautiful place now.”

As I looked at her life and listened to the eulogies,I was so touched by the quiet strength this woman had and the beauty of her spirit which she shared with all of us. I thought of my own mother, as I looked at the year she was born. She was born the same year as my mother and had much the same difficulties. A poem was shared by John, which she had written. It was incredible, as it had taken her 15 years to write and the subject was her daughter, Barbie. At the end she stated that if God were to speak, and ask her what she wanted, she would tell him, “A daughter with Down’s Syndrome.”

Well now she is in a place where there is no pain or crying. The King is truly, In Her Corner!

Hula hoops

Let’s Get Retarded???

A child's heart


I was shocked when I went to the pool party at the park yesterday. The 4th of July was in full swing and I had taken my son and my brother, who happens to be mentally challenged..or as some would say, retarded. 

I had him and my son in the pool and I put a life jacket on my brother, as I know he is terrified of the water, since he cannot swim. When I brought him to live with me, I showed him how to float with the life jacket on and he kicks his feet and moves his arms to swim. I honestly believe this is the first experience he’s ever had with floating in a life jacket and he loves it. 

There was a DJ playing music poolside and all of a sudden I heard it. A song I actually used to like. I never heard these lyrics before and I was very angry when I listened. “Let’s get retarded in here. Get stupid.” Wait a minute, this sounds just like The Black Eyed Peas! There’s no way they would have written this. After all, these are black men, minus Fergie, yet who would know better what cruelty  it is to mock some people who did not choose this life for themselves?  It is equivalent to mocking a person for the color of his skin, or hair, or culture. 

To use such a song to mock these people, would be equivalent to a band throwing the ‘N” word around, as if it’s just a way to entertain. How would this group feel to have that word inserted, where they used the word “retarded?” 

I am so upset, I just lost my whole love for their music in one fell swoop. What hypocrisy and stupidity. Who’s really retarded? After all the oppression against blacks, and the progress made to end this, are the mentally challenged exempt from any such consideration? Why? Because they don’t know any better? 

Well, the people who love them do! My brother was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The very object of his life supply was now strangling him. Cutting off oxygen and damaging his vocal cords to the point where he can barely express himself to those around him. 

When I was a young girl, and he was still living with us, my mother had an extremely difficult time. She had six children and had just lost a son. I watched her struggle as she tried to do the simplest things in our home. She had my brother in a harness and he could play in the yard, but his harness was attached to the pole that held the clothesline. He had the ability to come in the house and go back out, without straying from the yard. This was the only way she could do her chores. 

On occasion, as he played, I would hear the voices of children passing the yard. I looked out my window to witness kids taunting my brother. I was so hurt and angry that I would scream at them to leave him alone! I would run out to him and comfort him. Wasn’t it hard enough for him? To know he couldn’t do the things other kids could do? 

Later, the care of my brother became too much for my mother. She had a breakdown and this is when she placed him in an institution. When I went with my siblings to visit, he would cry so hard, to come home with us. I always cried too and was tormented at the thought of leaving him. I vowed that one day, I would bring him home and allow him to try all the things that other children participate in. 

Of course in these days, there is so much more for people like my brother and I have been blessed to find angels everywhere, who lend their time and energy to give my brother and others like him a chance to ‘fit in.’ 

And this is exactly why I was so shocked to hear a very successful group of musicians, singing something so disgusting. And the fact that it was a group of people who should know what this ignorance can do to bring harm, is just the pinnacle of shame. 

I decided the minute I heard that song, that I would not listen to them anymore. I had to think of their lyrics, “let’s get retarded in here” Hmm,seems to me, they got what they asked for.   

But, as for my brother; he has the mind of an innocent child and totally oblivious to such nonsense. Which, by comparison, makes him a genius next to those who would degrade him!