My cousin, Eric (57)

One might think that kids who are bullied grow up and get over it, but my cousin says he remembers every shove, every taunt, every tease like it happened last week.

Eric (57) and I sat in the Jantzen Beach Bar and Grill overlooking the Columbia River and eating lunch. The wait staff bustled about the tables around us as my cousin filled me in on what it was like for him to attend school in the 60s and 70s. Back then, kids with developmental delays were not mainstreamed among the rest of their peers.

“We were isolated,” Eric said, explaining that he felt like there was a huge stigma on the students enrolled in special education classes. “Kids used the “R” word and they made fun of the way I talked.”

“You talk fine,” I said.

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What Do Predators Look Like?

September 10, 2015 // Blog

Photo attribution: The Caspr Project

Merriam-Webster defines a predator as a person who looks for other people in order to use, control, or harm them in some way.

Today, as I watched the Dr. Phil Show, the word predator kept racing through my mind. Woman after woman shared her ordeal of being raped or accosted by Bill Cosby. For me, I never imagined a predator would look like a comedian, a Jell-O pudding pusher, a doctor—the amusing family man from The Cosby Show. And his alleged predatory behavior has gone on for decades. Why has it taken so long to catch this man?

Because predators are sneaky individuals. They blend in. They don’t look like anything special, and we never know where they lurk. Sometimes they prowl right in front of us, but we can’t, or don’t want to see them. Perhaps, they have power.

Fifteen years ago, my twenty-year-old, special needs daughter got a second job, at a take-n-bake pizzeria in our small community. (This place has been out of business for years now.) Her forty-four-year-old boss immediately started complimenting Lindsey on her good looks and allowing her to work late into the night. He gave her free food, and free quarters so she could play the video games. He was grooming her. And he groomed us too.

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Lindsey talks about being single.

Lindsey talks about being single.

After Lindsey and her husband ended their relationship, John and I worried our thirty-five-year-old daughter with developmental delays might not bounce back into a solitary life so easily. I worried she might be lonely, that she would be out looking for a new love, or she might struggle to make new friends.

But none of our concerns have come to fruition.

Every time we see Lindsey, she tells us, “I’m never gettin’ a boyfriend ever again. It’s too much work.” I nod, watching my girl cover the pillows on her bed with the quilt her great-grandmother handstitched for her long ago. With tremoring hands, Lindsey lays her Cabbage Patch Kid’s head on the pillow. She concentrates so hard, you’d think she was positioning a real baby on the bedspread, and I smile. Lindsey tells me about all the friends she’s made at her new place and adds, “Single is the way to go, Mom. That’s for sure.”

And here are her ten reasons why:

1. “I only have to worry about myself and no one else.”

2. “I’m very in-de-pen-dent,” she says, pronouncing each syllable haltingly and with great care. “I like to do things my own way.”

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Please note that Lindsey has given me permission to write about this incident. Personal identifiers in this post have been changed because the situation has been resolved amicably.

P1020647“Mom, it’s freedom of speech,” Lindsey said, explaining that the neighbor man put a sign in his flowerbed that said: Lindsey keep out!! “But it’s soooo embarrassing!”

“That’s not freedom of speech, Linds,” I said, realizing I’d be embarrassed too. “That’s bullying, and I’m coming over.”

“But I don’t wanna make that man mad…” my thirty-five-year-old started to say. Before she finished her sentence, I’d already pushed end, stuck the phone back in the power base, and was heading out the garage door.

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John walks Lindsey down the aisle

Lindsey’s Dad walks her down the aisle

Two fall seasons ago, in our backyard, my husband walked our special girl down a grassy aisle. The bride beamed. So did the groom.

And both families held high hopes for a successful union.

Our “kids” had known each other for years. They’d played on the same Challenger softball team, attended special education classes together, and had been friends off and on since they’d graduated from Silverton High School.

“I thought I’d be married forever,” Lindsey said, averting her eyes and picking at a reddened cuticle. “I don’t believe in getting separated or divorced.”

But marriage is hard. Especially when your spouse gets sick. Really sick. “It was too much responsibility,” Lindsey explained, referring to taking care of an ill husband. “I got the worry gene. So when Nick was in the hospital, I worried all the time.”

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Lindsey – Christmas 2014

Lindsey has a little advice on how to have the merriest Christmas ever: “Christmas is the time to be caring and thoughtful, fun, nice, and kind. Think about others and have a great time with family. Sing, party, dance, and kick up your bootie. And it’s okay to open cards when you get them. But presents should wait till Christmas.”

And here are a few more Lindsey thoughts for this special day:

M – is for Mail. It’s fun to send Christmas cards, but I like to get some too.

E - is for Everything changes (about the holidays) when you lose a Grandpa. I lost mine and I sure miss him. But he would want me to have fun. So I try.

R - is for Really enjoy all your family. Family is important. I learned that the hard way when I ran away for awhile and didn’t get to see my  family. But now I get to see them. And now I enjoy them too.

R – is for Remember that the reason for the season is Jesus.

Y - is for Yippee! (clapping gleefully) Santa Claus is coming to town. Continue reading →