Candy Wrappers, Napkins and Banana Peels

Life with an adult with Down Syndrome is interesting.  I always thought I knew my brother in law, Carlton, but until I actually lived with him for 6 months I did not have a clue.  Not that I got it all figured out after 6 months of living with him but I do understand a lot more than I did before and that is a good thing.

We had to have some regular maintainance done on the house and so the HVAC guy came to check things out.  Chris mentioned that the upstairs was always really warm and wondered if he could check out the vents that run to the second story which of course he was happy to do.  And that is where the story gets interesting.

Over the years Carlton had pretty much taken over the upstairs.  He had his own bathroom, 2 bedrooms and a huge sitting area where he had his tv and mini fridge and and all the things that he loved the most.  The upstairs was his  little apartment after his brother and sister moved out and it was his domain.  He was very protective of his area and was unhappy if even the cats wandered upstairs so it was pretty much untouched except by him.

Imagine our surprise when the HVAC guy told us that he needed some black garbage bags……over the years Carlton had somehow determined that the way to dispose of his trash was to poke it into the vent on the floor in the sitting area.  The vent was so packed with debris it took cutting it open and replacing it on the first floor to get the trash out.   It was stuffed from basement to second floor with candy wrappers, napkins, banana peels and who knows what else.   I have a lot of theories on why he did it but those do not matter. What matters is that initially he denied that he was the culprit but after some prodding finally admitted to Chris that it was indeed him.

Dealing with the aftermath of this incident was interesting.  As the garbage bags were hauled out to the trash and Carlton was upset that we were upset about it we realized that somehow in his mind it was not a big deal that he had done this.  While “I” think he knows appropriate behavior perhaps he doesn’t.  Perhaps I expect too much from him.   It made me think about my expectations of him and if they were indeed too high.  He is very high functioning–can read and write and can do math probably better than me.  But somewhere in his mind it became the normal thing to stuff his trash in the vent in the floor even though it was his job to collect the trash from the trashcans, which he did religiously, he still felt the need to continue this behavior.

He does not like to talk about this “incident” and it upsets him which leads me to believe that he did know it was not appropriate behavior.  He likes to say that “the past is the past” and it needs to stay that way but sometimes the past catches up and you have to deal with it.  The good thing if he ever comes to live with us our vents are usually covered up with cats.



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  1. That is something! What a shock that must have been!

  2. The past is the past–he’s right. Can’t dwell on mistakes. Maybe he knows you were upset but not necessarily why it was wrong. Life you never know what will happen.

    • You certainly do not know what will happen next. Looking back on the incident it is more comical than it was that day! 🙂 At the very least the HVAC man had a story to tell!

  3. This is a great story, Beth Ann. Another one to add to your devotionals file. Carlton (love that name) sounds like a wonderful brother-in-law. We were blessed to have an adult neighbor living next door for many years who also had Downs Syndrome. He taught all of us so much. I miss Terry and his big wide smile.

    • Carlton is a trip, that is for sure!!! I have many stories!!! But this one I hesitated to share because I didn’t want to make it appear that I was being too critical of him, you know? But when the cats were both covering up the registers the other day it reminded me of the registers and then the post was written!!! 🙂

      • Oh, you weren’t being critical, simply showing us how we all need to be understanding. And I love that your cats keep warm on the registers. Smart kitties. I remember when our farm cats used to sit atop the oil-burning stove in the milkhouse. No, it wasn’t scorching hot. We used to lay our gloves atop the stove to dry and warm, too.

  4. Oh Beth what a great story. I love to read things like this because it helps me to keep things in perspective and not to get too upset about whatever is happening in my life at the time. You are such a wonderful person that has blessed so many people and that is what I love about you.

    • Joanna—you totally made my day. Heck my week!!! Thanks for the sweet words!!! You are so right—we have to just keep things in perspective, don’t we?? Some days that is easier than others!

  5. I would never think you were critical of Carlton, just the oposite. He is so loved by the family that I just think he is blessed to be loved by all of you.

  6. This was a really great story! I liked this post very much.

  7. I’m glad you had that checked out before selling the house. I do love the kitties “guarding” the ones in your home. Our dog would do the same, heat or a/c, didn’t matter, it was all his.

    • Oh yes–that would have been someone else’s nightmare!!! The kitties are not ones for the cold air—they rather like the warmth of the sunroom in the summer instead of the vents!

  8. Once again, I am reminded of how much I take for granted….even the simplest of things. “Normal” truly is the “setting on the dryer”. In the ‘grand scheme’ of life do such things really deserve such concern? Thanks for helping me readjust my vew of things/life!! Hugs, Doreen

    • I am a believer that everything, no matter how large or small it appears to others, is of importance. If it matters to you—it matters. Yes, I am reminded that many things that I have concerns about really aren’t all that important when I look back on them but I would never want to slam someone else because I think their “issue” is too small. If it matters, it matters. But yes—I take MUCH for granted. I try to think that I don’t but in reality I do. Thanks for stopping by!!!

  9. I wonder if he thought the trash was actually coming out somewhere else – where he was collecting trash? But now you know, the next time he visits, will you do anything different?

    • Well we sold that house and he has been told repeatedly about it so I think he gets it now. I think it was a behavior that was learned and then he just kept doing it. He has stayed with us and we had no issues with it so I think we solved that issue!

  10. Happy Sharefest! I was going to say maybe he thought the trash was going somewhere and in his mind, it wasn’t just sitting there.


  11. An interesting story! My brother does not have Down Syndrome but as a child, he confessed to stealing 27 candy bars over a period of a few weeks. He led my parents to a drawer in his room and all of the wrappers fell out. They never really figured out why he did that, and then later confessed, but he must have had his reasons.

    • Tamara, Thanks for sharing that story!!! It is surprising when you find something out about someone about something they did that makes no sense to you at all! Thanks for stopping by!

  12. That’s quite a story. And I don’t know what to say. I guess, it’s a good thing that down here the vents are all in the ceiling and not the floor!

  13. I hope it’s ok that this made me giggle. It’s good to both remember that past is the past and that the past can catch up with you. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Totally okay to giggle. It was a pretty amazing thing and after we got over the “shock” of it we had to just shake our heads! His favorite phrase continues to be “the past is the past”. 🙂

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