What Can He Do Today?

by Ginnie Horst Burkholder

Adult Day Care is a lifesaver and something I wouldn’t want to be without. Sometimes though, I want to tell the staff to leave me out of the formula for his entertainment. Nelson told me one morning that “tomorrow” he needed a costume. Tomorrow? Now how will that work, and what magic is going to make it happen? Me, I guessed.

Lucky for him we had planned to be out and about that evening doing errands. Adding a stop at the Salvation Army seemed doable. Beyond that I would make no promises. When the time came, I asked if he thought he could go into the store and look for something while I went across the street to buy printer paper. Of course he said, “yes.” What was I thinking? This is the man who still believes that he can do anything just by trying harder. As he went in the door, and I drove away, an internal court began.

“You dropped him off to do this by himself? Do you remember how long it’s been since he has done anything like this on his own?”

“So long I can’t remember, but maybe…you never know. Anyway, I’ll only be a minute.”

“You’d better hope he’s ok.”

“I’ll hurry.”

“And what if something happens to you?”

“You’re scaring me. I’ll be really careful.”

I did hurry, and back at the Salvation Army I found him wandering aimlessly around the store. I latched onto his hand and had him follow me around, looking for anything that might stimulate our imagination. I’m not good at costuming. He, on the other hand, has always loved it.

Years ago, he came home wearing a realistic rubber pullover mask of a wizened old man, a trench coat, a cane, and a hat pulled low over his face. He startled me in the back yard and scared me witless. He went into gales of laughter. I tried unsuccessfully to beat some sense into his head.

That night the only thing of interest at the Salvation Army was a black gaucho hat, but that is hardly a costume. We went back to the car empty-handed. Then I had second thoughts. A hat wasn’t a costume, but maybe I could build on it. I asked him if he could go in and get it. Sometimes you just want something so much to be true, that in the face of all odds, you give it a chance. I gave him money, and he went in while I waited in the car.

But the internal court went into session again.

“You’re sending him in alone?”

“He was just there, and it’s a straight walk to the back of the store.”

“What are you thinking?”

“I’m tired.”

“He can’t do it.”

I succumbed. I ejected myself from the driver’s seat and went in. He was nowhere near the hat. I corralled him, took him to the hat, and, after trying it on, we took it to the checkout. The line was long, and my chemical sensitivities were reacting to the fragrance dispensers used to mask odors. I was getting a headache. I showed him where to stand in what appeared to be a motionless line. I went outside and kept vigil, watching him through the storefront window from outside. Periodically I stepped in to see if the line was growing shorter. It never seemed to be. Then I would go back out and wonder if he was going to tip over as I watched him lean farther and farther forward.

I studied the people in line. Could I give one of them the money and ask them to purchase it for us – the Amish lady maybe? I decided against it. She had a large pile in her cart already. He finally made it to the checkout, and I watched through the window as he handed over the money and took the change and his hat.

At home I had an idea. I pulled out a long, sleek, black raincoat of mine and tied the arms around his neck to look like a cape. I pressed the hat onto his head. Then I knew all we needed was a big silver duct tape “Z,” front side on the hat, back side on the cape. And Zorro would be good to go.

He left for Day Care the next day as Zorro, and came home as Zorro. What he did in between is limited only by the imagination. Zorro can do anything, right? Maybe, if nothing else, he got to believe that for a day he had no limitations. If so, it was worth the trouble.

© 2008 Ginnie Horst Burkholder

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