Ups and Down’s*
Please don’t anyone tell my daughter Mandy that this article exists. Every word of it is true, and that’s the problem. Her flair for the dramatic might re-ignite, even at 29, and there would be trouble again—hilarious perhaps, but too much misadventure for a sixty-five year old mother to experience.
We spoiled Mandy a little, though not on purpose. Not only was she a Down’s syndrome baby, but she was initially predicted to die in very young childhood due to a congenital heart defect. Then, just in time, a new medical procedure was perfected, and open-heart surgery gave her a new life.
Did I say she was also hyperactive? Technically, I mean; really, although she was not officially diagnosed until the teachers had experienced her for a year or two. Ritalin didn’t help her; we did, her two sisters and brother and me.
Mandy was a card from the first getgo. For instance, she early coined the epithet “pantihose” for anyone who crossed her. Looking back, the first of these dramatic episodes occurred while she and her sibs were visiting their father in Atlanta one Christmas. I mean the first really dramatic episode. Luckily I didn’t hear of it until it was all over. It was at her father’s house that the event unfolded.
Apparently Mandy had grown tired of a lull in attention and decided to visit downtown Atlanta. While her sister Sallie was attending to the laundry, Mandy put on her coat and walked a couple of long blocks from her dad’s house to Ponce de Leon Avenue. Somehow shew managed to traverse that busy thoroughfare without getting killed. Mandy was patiently waiting for the city bus when it pulled up, headed for downtown Atlanta. Her heart was almost surely singing as she boarded the bus in anticipation of freedom and new adventures.
It was a blessing that the busdriver suspected something was amiss and notified the police from the phone in the bus. He also let Mandy board the bus without paying.
Meanwhile, back at the home, silence suggested that Mandy was into something. Just what that something was became evident after several frantic minutes of searching –she was missing! A missing persons call to the police happily coincided with the found persons call from the bus company. When Mandy disembarked from the bus her family was waiting.
The children and I were living in Ohio when Mandy discovered Jones Boys grocery store and noted that it was within walking distance from our home. If given half the chance she would streak out the door, take the road through the cemetery behind our house, and pay the Jones Boys a visit. The police inadvertently contributed to her mischieviousness by feeding her treats while waiting for our frantic phone call. After a time or two they didn’t have to wait. They knew where her home base was.
When Mandy began school, new vistas of possibility opened before her. She was taught how to use the phone, and use it she did. Thankfully, 911 was not yet available. But she had been taught how to use zero for help. One slow, uneventful and boring day while her grandmother was with her, Mandy’s fantasies got the best of her. She decided that a nonexistent boyfriend had loved and deserted her, and she called the operator in gasping, heart-wrenching tears, presenting a situation which was understandably difficult for the operator to comprehend.
When I arrived home, two police cars had pulled into my yard (and I mean over the curb, noses pointed toward my front door. Mandy had turned her attention to other matters by that time, and upon learning that no acts of domestic violence, murder or torture had been perpetrated, the officers departed. One-sixteen Vinton Street was becoming a known address in Gallipolis, Ohio.
The next incident that swims into focus involves an old antique gun that had been left in the garage by previous owners. We had recently moved to Athens, Ohio, and when I came across the antique gun (actually old and rusted), I put it up high, near the rafters in the garage. Need I mention that Mandy can find any hidden thing, anywhere? She’d never seen the gun before, but found it and headed down East State Street, toward Super America, gun in hand. She had not traversed half a block before the police received two phone calls about pistol-wielding Mandy stalking down the street.
Fearful that she might shoot, one policeman cautiously snuck up behind her while another approached her frontally. I received a call on that one at work and was told the incident was included in the newspaper’s police report column. Thankfully, that was one column I missed, although several well-meaning friends mentioned it to me.
Mandy has always been very observant and had long ago learned the route her school bus followed. So it came to pass that on the first day of summer vacation that year, when no bus tooted for her, she found it a cinch to traipse off to school on foot. Her journey took her more than a mile and a half, past the Health Department on West Union.
I can only imagine the dramatic tremor in her voice as she grandly made her brief entrance, which was just long enough to announce to the nurses and those in the waiting room, “I’m pregnant!” With that she cheerfully resumed her journey to school, only to be intercepted by a friend who returned her safely home.
Mandy’s sister Elizabeth was watching Mandy not long after, when Mandy’s next adventure unfolded. They had both fallen asleep while watching television. The set droned on and on, and the next thing Elizabeth knew, there was sharp rapping on the front door. Mandy had awakened and, apparently bored by the program playing, had decided to go out dancing. She went upstairs, changed clothes, and walked more than a mile downtown to O’Hooley’s bar, where she joined in the fun until an employee recognized her and drove her home.
Some of Mandy’s past adventures are understandably a blur, but I can’t forget waking up in the morning some time later and discovering that Mandy had deserted her bed sometime during the night and was gone. There was another frantic missing persons call to the police, who were at the house taking information when she appeared on the scene, escorted . The manager of the Shell Station catty-cornered from the house had discovered her asleep in one of his trucks parked behind the station. (She had fancied that one of the employees was her boyfriend and had apparently sought to be near his place of business in lieu of him).
Then there was her disappearance from the house during one of my Friday night soup group meetings. I had just missed her when a police car pulled in with Mandy in handcuffs, in the back seat.She had walked down East State to some halfway house near Children’s Services in search of a classmate to whom she was attracted. One of my soup group friends said she heard one of the officers indicate that she must have broklen free.
“They seemed to think you keep her chained up,” she said.
Apparently the handcuffs were applied after Mandy decided to play hide and seek with the police. The next to the last episode which I’ll share was scary and sobering, but reveals Mandy’s single-minded determination to accomplish her goals.
In addition to keeping Mandy safe, I was encouraged by the specialists to help Mandy take more responsibility for herself since she would soon be an adult. So one September I had an idea. Someone had always put Mandy on the school bus, and I thought this might be an opportunity for her to gain some experience with responsibility. There was a period of about fifteen minutes between the time I left for work and the arrival of her school bus. The day before school started I called the school and determined the bus’s scheduled arrival time. I suggested that if some day Mandy did not catch the bus, the driver should use his phone to report the fact, and I would come home from work to deal with her.
She liked going to school. I did not expect her to ever miss the bus.
I thought the agreement was in place, but in the world of treatment plans and paperwork, my words to the school staff had been processed as eventual possibilities, not present realities.
What happened was that one day Mandy missed the bus after I had left in my car pool. But she wanted to go to school! Up high, hanging on a hook, she spied an extra set of the keys to my car Eureka! She didn’t have to walk to school this time! She would drive!
There was a little hair dressing shop whose window looked out on my driveway. As the owner later related to me, Mandy came out the back door and climbed into the car. The motor started up, and Mandy gassed it. And gassed it. The car slowly rolled back into the street from the driveway, with Mandy racing the engine in a goal-directed fashion. The scenario, witnessed by the beauty shop’s owner and a draped occupant of the chair, brought swift action. Within minutes the police were on the scene, and once again I received a phone call at work. Perhaps you can imagine the content of that call.The school denied any plan was in place, and I was cast in the role of the irresponsible one. If it seems our entire life was in chaos, remember that this was over a period of years and years… But it wasn’t always like that–just most of the time.
TO BE CONTINUED
My son Ian and his wife Laura participated in the final scenario reported here. They were coming home from running errands and turned into our driveway just as a police car was approaching. The cruiser pulled in behind them. Ian was wondering if he had done something deserving of a ticket when he heard screaming.
Mandy was running around the back yard,shouting frantically and waving her arms. Ian and Laura scrambled out of their car and the officer scrambled out of his right behind them. “What’s going on here?” he wanted to know. Ian and Laura were curious, too.
Mandy pulled herself together sufficiently to gasp, “There’s a bat in the house!” With that, she led the way in through the back door and suddenly Laura screamed. At that, Mandy resumed screaming. The bat was swooping again.
In the livingroom, oblivious to all the excitement, lay Mike, Mandy’s boyfriend, asleep on the sofa.
The officer stared. “What’s wrong with him?”
Ian shrugged. “Oh, that’s just Mike.”
Laura pointed to Bubba the cat, who was drinking from a fish bowl whose water level was alarmingly low, and gave a little hysterical laugh.
The officer was bending over Mike. “Is he okay?” Laura explained the sedating effects of Mike’s medication while Ian observed the bat entering and leaving the room, swooping up and down the staircase.
Our representative of law and order decided to take charge of the situation. He assigned Laura the task of checking on Mike, grabbed a broom from the kitchen, and directed Ian to open all the windows. He then began following the bat as it swooped around the house.
Ian later recalled suspecting that the officer was checking all the rooms to be sure there were no more bodies lying about.
Laura got Mike to sit up, Ian continued throwing open windows and doors, and all the while Mandy was running back and forth from kitchen to back porch, issuing tearful wails. Finally the bat man successfully rid the premises of the uninvited creature and then departed, after giving Mandy a fatherly lecture to the effect that bats are our friends.
Mike went back to sleep.
Years have passed, and now Mandy’s dramatics are happily limited to shouting “Yes! Yes! Oh, yes!” a la the Herbal shampoo commercial. But, please remember…Mum’s the word. This article doesn’t exist.
*Appeared previously in Pickin’ Fleas.
With big sister