The Writings of Mary Haakenson Perry  

Onward, Crispy Shoulders!

An Extraordinary Life with an Extra Chromosome


"Hi-yo Silver! Awa-a-a-a-a-y!" The full-throated cry rings through the quiet spruce forest. Before the echoes die away, a boy appears on a rough, packed-dirt path between the trees, pedaling his bicycle as fast as the rutted surface allows. Bike and rider flash past the solitary log cabin and down another similar, but slightly wider trail, in hot pursuit of an imaginary Bad Guy.

Apparently deciding to continue the chase of foot, the youngster flings himself off the bike. With a shove of the handlebars and an admonition to "Go hide in the bushes, Silver," the fearless hero dashes into the cover of the nearby trees. Silver, an old blue one-speed whose body bears mute testimony to prior experience with similar adventures, wobbles on, riderless, for several feet before collapsing into the fireweed.

Meanwhile, the battle rages on. The young defender of justice crouches for safety behind an uprooted tree stump. Occasionally he ventures out far enough to spray his foe with hot lead from a deadly forefinger. Anyone privileged to witness this drama can keep track of the action by the steady stream of sound effects: "Pow-pow! Get back, Tonto! Pow-pow!"

"Oooh--he got me!" This last, presumably is from the Bad Guy, since the boy soon emerges from cover, collects Silver, and rides triumphantly back to the house, having rid the world of another dangerous villain.

As the lad draws near, the observer notes that he is a young man in his early teens. His face holds an expression of satisfaction at the battle just won. Also evident are the slightly slanted eyes, the small head and ears, flattened face and larger-than-normal lips and tongue--all unmistakable features of Down's syndrome. The hero of this story is my oldest brother, Jim. Throughout his life he overcame a myriad of real-life obstacles and even a few "bad guys" who stood in his way. In the process, he lived with a gusto and style that were his very own. As he neared the end of his life, I thought back on all the "Jim stories" that have become a part of our family's memory and the "Jim-isms" (his favorite words and phrases) that continue to flavor our speech. Beyond these, though, Jim provided an example and inspiration to scores of people with whom he came in contact. I hope his story will encourage you, as well.

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