When I finally went into the study last Friday at 8:00 a.m., I could smell something good. There sat Clark dressed in jeans and ready for the day. I smelled his face. “You have already shaved?” “Yes” he said with a sweet smile. This is very unusual behavior for Clark. Most days he stays in sweats until he has been reminded a hundred (well, maybe not quite that many) times to shower and shave. Phil, on the other hand, gets up on his own, makes his bed, gets dressed, goes for his walk and then comes back to shower and shave.
“Clark, why have you dressed and shaved so early?” I found out later in the day from Cherlyn that he had gotten up at 4:30 (he does not have a good concept of time) to shower and get dressed.
“Because your cousin is coming today.”
He was right. Ann, my first cousin who lives two hours away and who Clark and Phil met for the first time in December, had called me the day before to tell me that she would be dropping a box of pictures by our house. Clark had overheard the conversation.
She seemed so comfortable around Clark and Phil when we met her at the nursing home where my aunt (her mother) had just moved. Phil is always interested in cars and so one of the first questions he asked Ann was what kind of car she had. Instead of just telling him she asked him if he would like to see it and then took him out to the parking lot. I must admit I am always amazed when someone seems so immediately comfortable around Clark and Phil. How would I be if I didn’t have children with mental retardation? Would I be uncomfortable and not know what to say or do because it was outside my realm of experience? Probably. I have watched family members, friends and acquaintances through the years and have noticed their different reactions. I think I am more amazed at those who are friendly and include them in conversation and activities. When they were young and I could sense someone was excluding them or making unkind comments, I was hurt. But with the passing of years I have come to understand better that most people don’t want to be cruel; they just don’t understand. Some people change, become friendlier and more comfortable, as they get to know them. And that is a good thing.