6.18.2009

The little boy who could


Chris came to visit recently, and as we were cooking (he turned the pork chops), he told me about a new animated movie “Up.”

This, then, is the story of “Up with Chris.”

As many of my regular readers know, Chris is my mentally challenged buddy. I learned a long time ago that Chris knows what he’s talking about.

Through the years my love of movies has rubbed off on Chris. He told me once that he had asked his mom to buy him the movie, “Kung Fu Panda.” My response was, “Chris, you shouldn’t spend your money on junk movies like that!” Turned out the movie was one of the most popular in recent years.

As for “Up,” it’s been a big box office hit with rave reviews, a few suggesting it’s a shoo-in for a best picture Oscar.

I first met Chris, now 26, when he was nine years old. I was sitting on my front porch reading, when a skinny, red-haired boy came up and leaned over the porch rail. At that time, he had a serious speech impediment and kept talking about “Cha-wee.” I figured out he was saying “Charlie,” so I asked, “What does Charlie do?” The kid responded, “He cuts people open and takes their guts out.”

Charlie is his mother’s soulmate, and Chris had given me a perfect job description. Charlie is county coroner.

I learned that if I really listen to Chris or ask him a few questions, everything he says makes sense.

A keen sense of self-worth comes from having helped Chris through the years to better understand the world around him.

Once when we were preparing to watch the musical, “Brigadoon,” I sent him upstairs to get the “T” encyclopedia. Turning to a full page featuring the various tartan plaids of the Scottish clans, I explained about the gathering of the clans in the movie’s enchanted village.

“I know about some people like that,” Chris chimed in. “They’re bad people. They wear white, and they’re called the Ku Klux Klan.”

Master of the remote while here, he once watched a St. Jude Children’s Hospital telethon, and all he could talk about was how he wanted to help. So, I copied down the information, and his mother gave him money to send along. To this day, he believes he contributed to a cure for cancer. And, he did.

Through the years Chris and I have worked on building his vocabulary, and when his teacher gave him low marks in an awareness of what’s going on in the world, his mother asked me to help him with current events. I got into trouble when Chris once told Charlie not to “patronize” him, and again when he told them not to vote for “that damn Republican Bush.”

Growing up, Chris excelled at Special Olympics events, bringing home a handful of blue ribbons every year. He once pitched the first ball of Clemson University’s baseball season after being nominated by his teacher and winning a local TV station’s “Terrific Kid” contest. I embarrassed his mother when I broke the rules and yelled “Go, Chris!” at his high school graduation. At age 21, when law required he leave the public school system, he marched in cap and gown and received a special diploma. A very special diploma.

As Chris entered adulthood, still with the thought processes and innocence of a child, and as I began to have vision problems, the tables turned, and now he helps me. My mantra for him has always been, “Can’t never could do anything!” Now, I say that to myself on a daily basis!

As small a thing as it might seem, I cannot make it down the way to the apartment complex dumpster, so Chris takes my trash out. Imagine if I didn’t have him to do that for me. He loves to help me cook and helps me “see” when I’m doing household chores.

This young man, who never learned to read in all those years in school, never leaves home without a big stack of books. “My life is books,” he has said so many times.

Several years ago I was in the kitchen, and Chris was sitting in the living room looking at the pictures in his books. I heard him saying, “Once upon a time …” Tears ran down my cheeks to hear him “read.”

Last summer he had a new book, a beautiful, thick collection of the Dick and Jane stories from my own first reading experience. As I was telling him I learned to read from these stories, he said, “I can read.” So, we sat down, and read he did. The moment was one of the single most thrilling of my life. If I had only thought to tape it as he carefully pronounced words I didn’t think he could get past, like “something.”

I asked, “Chris, who taught you to read this book?” “I did it all by myself!” he exclaimed. He then told me he was sounding out the letters just as he does helping me find items at the grocery.

Since high school, Chris has been in a special training program through the Walgreen’s Distribution Center here in Anderson. The Center has been featured on national TV for its program to hire the mentally and physically challenged.

As we ate our meal that day, Chris explained that “Up” is an animated film about an old man who ties balloons to his house and ascends into the clouds to fly away to the dreams of his childhood. He then said he was reminded of the beautiful little film, “The Red Balloon.”

And, I was reminded, once more, that from the day I met him, the only direction Chris could have gone was up.

***

Chris comes this afternoon and will stay with me through June 26 while his folks are on vacation. Since Chris has never “read a big book,” we will listen to John Grisham’s “A Painted House” on tape. I will be taking a blog break until June 27 to better enjoy our time together. Please check back then! Thanks!

9 comments:

Frodo, needs another sword said...

Don't you dare let him become a St. Louis Cardinal fan. Just tell him to say "Go Braves" every time Grisham mentions those "damn Cardinals."

Would Chris have an interest in being a member of the Fellowship of the Ring?

B.J. said...

Rest easy, hobbit, Chris is a Braves fan. He would absolutely love to be included in the Fellowship. Perhaps an ent – for growing straight and tall and having a colorful crown. BJ

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, B.J. Absolutely beautiful! Love, Faye - Living in St. Louis but a Tampa Bay Rays fan and a great fan of John Grisham

Debra said...

B.J.,
I loved the story of You and Chris.
I am so glad I got to meet him September 14, 2008. He is a great
person and so are you. I love you, Deb

Annelle said...

I have also known Chris since he first came into your life, but only through your emails and phone calls until we met last summer. I thank God that you have him and that he has you. Love ya

Richard Falzone for America said...

Well Mrs. B.J

I sure hope you will read these comments to Chris when he is visiting. Please say Hello from Richard! You're both really lucky to have each other. You didn't need me to tell you that 'cuz I know you both love one another. As I've said in the past my only regret is that I can't be there with you and to participate in your happiness in person. You both can rest assured I'm with you in spirit. Don't get spooked or anything Chris I just mean you're both in my thoughts. I've enjoyed hearing about you from B.J. Chris. Her reports do you great justice.

I love you both very much. I guess I always will.

Love Richard

P.S. The Cardinals are a great team too. Sorry Frodo, but I'm a St. Louis boy from way back. God bless 'em each and every one.

sue said...

What a lovely story about you and your special Chris, BJ! Brings tears to my eyes! How lucky you are to have him in your life and how lucky Chris is to have such a dear special person in his life, YOU!! Have fun this week, I know you will! xo Sue

Tiny said...

A match made in heaven. Both entertaining an angel unaware. Miss Julia would be proud that both of you are so blessed to have each other in your lives. I hope that both of you have a ton of fun.

Know that a bunch of us out here in cyberspace love and appreciate both of you.

Love and all the good thing in life,

Tiny

shari nevels said...

I think that may be the best blog post you have ever written. You really got the essence of what is Chris across to your readers. Tell him I said Hi - I will talk to him Monday when I call to fix your cards.
Love,
Shari