Monday, November 10, 2008

Despite what the last two posts may imply ...

Living with Thomas is not all about burning "Christians" in effigy. Sometimes we make voodoo dolls too.

The fact is, until he moved in with us, I'd never spent much time at all with developmentally disabled people. Our family's burdens had been limited to cancer, strokes and friends dying in plane crashes. So I had a learning curve with Thomas. But I decided early on just to treat him like a peer ... though that decision came mostly from the attitude that acting like a parent sounded like way too much work.

And once he realized that he was safe in our house—and that he really could watch anything he wanted on TV, any time he wanted–he stopped acting like a terrified child and started treating us like his peers in return.

And he's proven to be a delightfully conscientious houseguest. His chores are pretty much limited to taking out the garbage and keeping his room clean, but he also regularly runs and empties the dishwasher and vacuums the entire house for us. Which is awesome.

He's also unfailingly polite. But every time he calls me "sir," which he does pretty much every time he talks to me, I find myself wondering if it's an affectation or a surprisingly developed sense of irony ... or maybe it's a remnant of something darker. Like a habit beaten into him by his mother over 15 years of abuse. But he seems to be blessed with the capacity to compartmentalize past transgressions and live only in the present, so I don't dare ask him about his habit's provenance.

Thomas is also thoughtful enough that he's already bought us our Christmas presents ... which he unceremoniously handed to us unwrapped this weekend. His emotional expressions run a pretty limited gamut, so when I looked in his eyes to thank him I couldn't tell if the expression I saw was one of magnanimity, pride, childlike holiday excitement or just relief that he had his shopping and his gift-giving done for the year.

Speaking of gifts, my favorite Thomas story involves the domestic partner's birthday last June. Thomas came to me excitedly (I think) a week before the actual birthday and told me that he'd bought the domestic partner a ready-made cake at the grocery store. But I didn't have to worry about the domestic partner finding it; Thomas was going to hide it under his bed for the week. And in his very next breath—before I could even assemble a that's-probably-not-a-very-good-idea face—he asked me if maybe I thought he should take it back to the store instead. I never asked what happened to the cake (and it's not currently under his bed) so I assume grocery stores do indeed let you return unchewed bakery cakes.

There are just as many heartwarming Thomas stories as there are heartbreaking ones. And I'm sure more will pop up in the future as I search for interesting blog fodder. But I've already given poor Thomas more exposure than his little pseudonymed self probably bargained for. So we'll let him sink back into the background for a while.

But I'm glad you-all have finally gotten to meet him.

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