The first time I ever met anyone in Charlie’s family we drove up to his hometown. We were to stay the weekend there, visit with his friends, and hang out. For me, this was a huge step. Had he known me better at the time, he would have realized how in love with him I must have been. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really know what I was in for.
He had told his dad about me and what I did for a living at the time. At this point, I had been in social services for around 5 or 6 years and had offered one-on-one semi-independent-living assistance to adults with moderate to severe disabilities. I was not a nurse, not a case worker, not a therapist. Most people thought I was one or the other, including Charlie’s stepmother.
The first thing she said to me when we were alone together was that she was thinking of homeschooling Charlie’s younger brothers because (as she said), it was obvious to any one that they were mentally retarded.
I was appalled. Of course I had never thought there was anything wrong with either of these boys. She then went on to ask me what I would recommend for them, as if I were a psychologist or therapist. I said that it wasn’t really my place to make judgments like this, but from what I could tell, most kids who were homeschooled did lose out on quite a bit of social interaction as a result. I said that I would not, personally, recommend homeschooling a child unless he or she had a severe enough physical disability, or if the child was so academically profound that there were no options in public or private school that could meet his or her standards.
What I wanted to say was that no woman who was so emotionally unstable and mean should be allowed to trap two boys in her home with her all the time. But, of course, I tried to be polite.
[insert segue here]
Yesterday, during my incoming-freshman orientation, I met a girl who would also be attending the art school down there. Her mom had come along and made a point of loudly asking what types of programs were available to people with learning disabilities. She brought it up so many times that people were staring at her. Charlie and I were totally embarrassed for the girl and by the woman. If that’s possible — I get more embarrassed for other people than I do for myself.
Let me paint you a picture: the woman was probably in her late thirties, early forties, but she looked like she’d aged really poorly. She had long, stringy greyish hair and a pinched but chubby face. Her teeth were various colors and shapes. The woman was wearing a sweater that was too short and jeans that weren’t high enough. Her breasts were huge and hung down so low that I wasn’t sure if her stomach or her boobs were peeking out at me. She had ashy, grey feet that she kept slipping out of her sandals.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that, if these people weren’t wealthy, they weren’t worth my time. I didn’t get the impression that they were poor, just that the woman was not exactly a prize and here she was, shouting to a room full of 18 year-olds that her daughter was mentally retarded while she paraded around in tacky, out-of-style clothes.
I talked to the girl. She was mousy and painfully shy, had bad skin, and wore her hair in her face, but she was not disabled in any way that I could tell. She was also on her way to college — a pretty big step for someone who, as her mom made it sound, is so severely retarded that she couldn’t attend classes on her own.
I would like to bitch slap both this poor girl’s mom and Charlie’s stepmom, for many different reasons. The former for being so obvious in her attempt to get attention and sympathy from people for the cross she has had to bear; for humiliating her daughter in public specifically to get sympathy and attention. The latter – for more reasons that I can even remember at this point. One being having the nerve to take aside the best man and beg him to talk Charlie out of going through with the wedding after our rehearsal.