I have a younger brother. His name is Chris and yes, he’s cool. At least that’s how he signs his name, which took him a while to learn being he has Down’s syndrome. But he did it and for some reason Chris was never enough. His signature has to be Chris Cool.
Some days Chris is pretty sluggish. There are moments when he’ll shut down. Most of the time he needs to be pointed in a direction; then there are times when a burst of creativity will overcome him and he will light up a room.
One time I went with my mom to pick up Chris at Camp Friendship, a week-long retreat of recreational fun. Chris has gone to this particular camp for many years with its ups and downs. He likes to lead the campfire sing-along. I’ve seen group photos of him at the swimming pool. Everybody in the photo all smiles, but Chris just stands erect and passionless like a stoic prisoner in a Russian work camp. Usually, by the end of the week he’s in a pretty good mood. And by the time he’s ready to be picked up, he has an extra spring to his step. At least that’s how he bounded out of the cabin door when Mom and I walked up the path.
Actually, he didn’t bound. He swept. He moved towards us with composure of a Broadway actor taking a final curtain call. His hands gently rose into the air. Then he stopped.
This wasn’t the cool part for anybody could have done this.
He then moved the same distance in reverse, shimmying backwards. But instead of going directly back, he arced along the face of the cabin like he was allowing the next person to make an entrance through the cabin door.
Once Chris reached the edge of the cabin, he again stopped. With his entrance complete, he sauntered towards us with a big grin. It was smooth. It was the coolest entrance I’ve ever seen but it wasn’t the coolest thing he’s ever done.
For a time after college I lived with my parents. And for a summer my cousin, Wendy, lived there too. One day we decided on a visit to Dairy Queen. Since it was only a few blocks away, we decided to walk.
By the time we returned, I had finished my ice cream cone but Wendy still had most of her Blizzard.
As she sat down at the dining room table, Chris grabbed a hold of me and pulled me into the adjacent living room. For a time this is how we greeted each other: by wresting on the floor. And if ever a person garnered an advantage, the other person would shout for help. Since Wendy was the closest, Chris yelled, “Dondy!”
Chris called Wendy “Dondy” for that’s how he heard her name with his less than stellar ears.
Wendy immediately put down her Blizzard and jumped into the pile. Soon, they turned the tide and I was in danger of losing the edge.
“Lisa, need some help.”
And that’s how it went. Whoever walked into the room would be called in for reinforcements. Chris called for Chad and I chose Amy. And by the time Sarah jumped in, it turned into a melee for nobody knew which side they were even on. Even Wendy became confused and looked around.
The guy who started it all was nowhere to be found for he was at the dining room table enjoying the rest of Wendy’s desert.