“Through this anthology of portraits, I have tried to convey the incredible variety of people who are lumped together under the umbrella of intellectually disabled.”
I went into the restroom, leading Chuck behind me, and in one of the stalls I found a Chuck College lunch sack floating in an unflushed bowl. When I pointed at it, Chuck said loudly, “Oh, no!”
“Several times Ben was caught stealing, and because the kids who talked him into it had threatened him, he wouldn’t say who they were. He also had a temper, and the tantrums he threw in town frightened some of the neighbors.”
“At school Lisa wouldn’t participate in group activities. When children came with their mothers to her house, she’d set her dolls out for them to play with, then go off by herself.”
“Amy’s voice was hoarse and her speech had a mournful tone, as if to say, all pleasures are fleeting–only weariness and persecution endure.”
Wally, a client who loved to provoke him, would sometimes grin and say, “Boulder, Charles? Charles going back to Boulder?” Charles would bite his hand, then grab a paper towel and write, “Mad, Mad—NO MORE BOULDER.”
Whenever a dairy truck drove up to the campground store, Barry would shout, “Whooooooaaaa! Milk!” And whenever an elderly lady came out of a trailer, he’d chant, “Gramma, gramma, gramma….”
“One day when the clients were outside waiting for the buses, I found Leroy around the side of the building, pulling his zipper down. In front of him stood dull, compliant Ruthie, her pants dropped to her ankles.”
Grant extended his arm and held it rigid, pointing his fist at Craig. “Your mouth!” he shouted. He slapped his other hand over his face, and a few moments later his voice exploded: “Shut up!! Your mouth!!”
Afterwards, sitting in a chair, Dave would be breathing hard, his body would be shaking, and his face would be drenched with tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he’d sob, and he’d want to hold hands with the people he had just attacked.
Margo put her thumb on her nose, waved her curled fingers at me, and giggled. “Goo-bye!” she said, and I laughed too. She planted laughter in others wherever she went.
“For Holly, lethargy was not a passing mood, it was a chronic condition. She dragged through the hours, dragged through the days. Life was not a gift she had been given; it was a sentence she had to serve.”
“One moment Gus would be working in his wheelchair, the next moment his arms would become rigid, his legs would kick out, his eyes would roll up into his head, and his body would be seized with rhythmic convulsions.”