A final repost in memory of our Carlton — originally published on February 28, 2013 and entitled “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.