Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturdays with Doah

Today being Doah's birthday (#31), it seems the perfect day to blog about him. It will be a simple day, like Doah. Donnie and I plan to take care of home tasks until mid-afternoon. Then we will go pick up the ordered-from-Safeway birthday cake, take Doah on board, and wend our way back to San Ignatio for Doah to spend a few minutes with a pal who takes him fishing and works in the mission gift shop. (He cannot come to Doah's party tonight because he has to work a second job, so he wants to say happy birthday to Doah before Mass.) After Mass, Doah and I will join others from church and elsewhere, about twenty in all, at the local pizza factory to celebrate not only Doah's birthday but also Donnie's, which was November 1, and that of Evgeny, the owner of Doah's new group home, which was two days ago. Prediction? Lots of fun will be had by all!

For some time now, Saturdays have been our day with Doah. Of course, it makes sense, since Saturdays fall on the weekend. Now that Doah is nearby, we do such things as go to the Monterey bay Aquarium together. We are members there, and when we were living in Salts, a bus ride from the aquarium, Doah would frequently hop the bus to visit the aquarium. He liked watching the fish, but he especially liked eating the fish at the aquarium's cafe. His idea of how best to observe fish is not to look at them in the tanks (except for the otter tank which fascinates him) but to go outside and looks out over the ocean where they live. There is a special connection between Doah and nature. One feels this watching him in his natural environment: the outdoors.

We also drag him along on any shopping trip. Unlike me, Doah loves to shop, and he always has great ideas about how to spend my money.

Spending Saturdays with Doah made even more sense during those years that Doah lived in a group home in Santa Clara. Every other Saturday we would make the long trek north to have a few hours with him. I guess that is what is called quality time. It was always his choice, and his choice was always simple. Perhaps the simplicity is why we enjoyed those Saturdays so much. Mainly, we would go somewhere to eat and talk, both being equally important to Doah. Then, generally, we would stop into CVS, and he would pick out something to take to his group home, and I would purchase it for him. He would always pop out his CVS card, of which he is as proud as most young people his age are of their driver's licenses, so that he could get credit for the purchase. (I have never known what CVS does with the "credit" that goes onto those cards, but I figure if I lose my wallet, a good citizen will be able to turn it into a CVS store which should be able to contact me -- or is that delusional thinking?)

And those made up the majority of our Saturdays with Doah. The last Saturday in Santa Clara was spent at Subway. Doah and I finished our lunch early, so while we waited for Donnie we took a walk around the two-storey building in which Subway is located -- and around it again and then again and again. It was a nice walk albeit a tad directionless. At the end, we climbed up onto the second floor and took some pictures. Little did we know at the time that this would be Doah's last Saturday in Santa Clara. It was the following three nights that he was raped at his group home, immediately after which we brought him back to San Ignatio until we were able to find him a new group home, lucking out in finding one in a small city nearby.

That last Saturday was full of hope. The staff at the group home had been planning a fishing trip, and Doah wanted to pick out a fishing pole. So, we went to a camping goods store near Subway where Donnie, an experienced fisherman from many years of both spinner fishing and fly fishing (used to tie his own flies when we lived in Montana), helped Doah pick out an appropriate fishing rod. As we were leaving, Doah's eye settled momentarily upon a tent that was set up in front of the store, then settled there. "I want a tent," he declared.

"What would you do with a tent, Doah?" we asked.

"Sleep in it," he replied.

"Really? Where?"

"In my back yard." He as already beside the tent and starting to crawl into it.

"I want this tent," he declared. "Look. Cheap." He pointed to the sale sign.

He was right. It really was cheap. $45 for a $90 tent. While we considered it, Doah settled inside and declared himself at home in "his" tent.

Entrapped by Doah's enthusiasm, we headed inside to find the tent, although we were certain that the tent would never be used. Inside there were all kinds of tents, mostly rather expensive ones, but none were the model or price that Doah had seen on the front lawn of the store. We asked a salesman for help, and he determined that this particular model was entirely sold out.

"Sorry, Doah, they are all gone," we said, but Doah was not listening. He was not there with us any more. That kid can slip away faster than a greased pig at a pig-handling contest! We looked around and found him in deep discussion at the front of the store with the store manager. Now what? We hurried over to find out what was going on.

Amazingly, Doah had talked the store manager into selling us the tent that was on display -- and into giving us an additional deep discount on it since it had been on display. We paid, in all, $30. "Cheap!" Doah pronounced, and he was right.

We brought the tent home and put it in storage. After all, we did not believe that there would be any need for that tent. Ironically, we needed that tent only a week later when Doah came home to stay with us. While we were baffled as to how to balance Doah's sleeping arrangements and his allergy to our cats, Doah had an answer: "I sleep my tent back yard." And so we pitched Doah's tent in our back yard, and there he slept comfortably and peacefully every night until he moved into his new group home.

This is so like Doah. We make plans that we think will contribute to his continued development and integration into the greater world. We try to excite him with our sophisticated ideas and all that he could be involved with were he to develop some additional skills. Instead, he comes up with something simple, something we never anticipated, and something that turns out to be more meaningful than any of our plans for him. I have no idea how he knew he would be sleeping in a tent in his back yard, but he was convinced of it, and, lo, it happened.

With time as he has grown from infant struggling to live through years of special education to supported adulthood, we have learned to give up our dreams for him in order to live in his reality. It is a simple reality, and it brings him happiness. I have rarely known Doah not to be happy. He wrote a book once (of course, with my help), and it is a happy book (you can find excerpts on Mahlou Musings from time to time). Doah could not write something serious. He views life as a good place; he sees people as good no matter how they treat him; he "needs" only one thing -- to know that God is with him.

When we first moved to San Ignatio, which has been called by a friend of mine "a place drenched in prayer," Doah came to visit. On his first trip, he stood in our front yard, turned around a few times, then suddenly stopped and remained quiet for about as long as he ever can -- a second or two. He looked at me and announced solemnly and with obvious satisfaction, "God here."

The sacred simplicity of Doah is something greater than all the secular sophistication of our plans for him. I wonder who is really learning from whom?


  1. This is absolutely beautiful. What a special man he truly is with a heart as big as the world. Happy Birthday Doah and Happy Birthday Donnie. May God bless you with many many more.

    I admire you Elizabeth. You are so full of God's love. What a beautiful mother you are. You are such an encourager and inspiration to me in all ways. As Doah aid, "God here"...Yes God is here at this place too.

    Love you,

  2. Happy Birthday to Doah and Donnie. May they both have many, many more happy times.
    Just remembered we were to guess where you were a while back. I don't remember the end of that one? Where were you after all?
    Blessings, Star

  3. @ Alleluiabelle: Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad you have found God in your place, too. He is, of course, everywhere. Just some places it is more palpable.

    @ Star: Thanks! I was in Afghanistan. (One person did guess accurately; that surprised me.)


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