Dean disappeared from the house for hours. He had been out in the woods on our property, down a
100 yard mulch path which ends at a point overlooking a little lake. There is a little concrete bench there under a big oak tree, opposite our pet cemetary. It’s a lovely spot, peaceful, secluded, perched at the edge of a 50 foot drop on two sides.
The first time he’d gone out there, I’d seen him go. He was angry. And I was glad he was going out somewhere to process it. When he didn’t come back in a little while, I peeked out from the deck, through the leaves and saplings and got a glimpse of him waving a long broken tree limb through the air. “Good,” I thought, “he’s pretending to be a wizard, fighting his demons.” Sure enough, he came back to the house sometime later, relaxed and happy.
When I mentioned this to his brothers later, one said, “Oh yea, he went out there the other day when we were arguing with him. He went out there and we could hear him yell!” So. My 24 year old son with Down Syndrome has learned how to go process his feelings, work out his anger, in a way that many of us don’t. I wish his brothers would go out there and yell and wave sticks around sometimes instead of spewing their anger at each other or me. Not that it happens very often, but it’s not pleasant when it does, and there IS a better way!
A few nights ago I put dinner on the table for whichever members of our household were home. We gathered and I asked “where’s Dean?” Someone checked the gameroom in the basement. Someone checked his bedroom. No Dean. Hmmmm. Then one of the boys went out the front door and called him, and here he came down the path. He was happy and glowing and joined us for dinner. No one really questioned him about what he’d been doing out there, but I did later.
I took Dean on a couple of errands with me and on the 15 mile drive home I took the opportunity to ask him what was going on out there in the woods. We’d seen he had gathered some big sticks and branches and propped them up on the bench against the tree. “Are you building something?” I asked him. “Well, yea, it’s kind of my sacred place,” he responded. “Really? What do you do there?” He looked down and said, “I know it sounds kinda weird, but I sort of meditate there. I imagine I’m one with the wind. One with nature. And it makes me feel better.”
I was so touched. So inspired. And again reminded of what a special spirit Dean is. I assured him that no, it wasn’t weird at all…many of my friends and I like to think about being one with nature….and that is a wonderful thing to do.
We’ve all been just amazed at the transformation in Dean since he moved out of the residence and workshop where he’s been for the last 2 years. He has become so much more agreeable, so pleasant and thoughtful. I really had no idea that this young man was in there. I had always understood that being stubborn and arguing (read: difficulty transitioning) was just part of Down Syndrome. I’m afraid I “stooped to expectations” when dealing with the difficult parts of his personality. His difficulty with all the rules and the people were something I thought he just needed to learn to deal with (as the staff assured me he would as he matured.) When he has problems with specific situations, I know to look behind his words and ask pertinant questions to get to the root of the issue. But this was pretty much his whole life and I failed to look behind the big curtain and recoginize the big picture for what it was, and the damage it was doing to my son. Ah, well, we move on. And I’ve learned some important lessons. And I’ve been reminded, once again, that Dean is a very special gift indeed.