A few years back when the family attended church in Glen Rose, I’d occasionally drive the church van to pick up folks who needed a ride. It was a privilege to do this.
There was one stop in particular I always looked forward to — just a couple blocks off the square, it was affectionately known as the “Group House.”
There’d usually be two to three middle-age men waiting by the curb. They had special needs and/or physical limitations. There was one fellow in the group that I was especially drawn to. His name was Doug and he had Down Syndrome.
Doug was sweet, gentle, kind, friendly, PUNCTUAL, and a little naïve in his own way - qualities we all could probably use more of.
Everybody loved Doug. Sometimes he’d sit next to us in church and he listened and sang along pretty good.
Every so often, I’d glance over and observe him and the fascination he had with his shiny new wristwatch.
Some times my family would ride with me when I went to pick up people. By doing this, they too got to know Doug. Over time, we started conversing with Doug by asking him easy “yes and no” questions along the way.
Something like: “Having a good day, Doug?” or “Like going to church?” or “Enjoy your breakfast this morning, Doug?” He’d almost always emphatically answer with a “Yea...ah!” That was Doug.
As we got to know him better, we’d ask other things like “What’d you have for breakfast, Doug?” “Pancakes!” “You like pancakes, Doug?” “Yea..ah!”
“What’s your favorite food, Doug?” “Hoppy Dogs!” (we just had to chuckle) “You like Hoppy Dogs, Doug?” “Yea...ah!”
As we all became even more comfortable with each other, I decided I’d ask him some kind of crazy made-up questions like: “Doug, you ever had deep-fried camel hump patties to eat?” or “Like to try some salamander slivers?” He’d always be quick to answer loudly “Na..aw!” And we’d all laugh together.
I sensed he enjoyed the interaction. It certainly made the ride to church all the more fun. One particular Sunday, it was just me and Doug. As I was about to assist him into the van, he indicated he wanted me to help him tie his tie.
When I finished, he indicated he wasn’t quite satisfied with the way it looked. I had not put the tail end of the tie through the “keeper’s loop” (that extra piece of
fabric sewn on the backside of the tie that keeps the tail out of view).
The thing is, here I am, a college graduate (and tying ties for some 40 years) and I never knew that’s what that was for (I’d always just used a tie clasp).
Doug taught me something that day, and it was more than just about tying a tie. Doug passed away several years ago and is in heaven now. I’ve never forgotten him and what I learned from this meek, simple soul.
I have a feeling that when I get to heaven one day, I’ll be seeing ol’ Doug again and he just might show me another thing or two.
It will be an honor.
Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.