30 Minutes of Happiness

I drove Ethan to his day program one morning which meant I got to go in, which meant I got to stay for a little while, which meant my day started out way better than yours.

Ethan’s farewell to me was proceeded by him going to put his things away, greeting friends and ignoring me. As I chatted with Sandy, the woman who runs the program, I watched as he relaxed into a chair and sat calmly deciding what to do. He looked for paper and pens and his earbuds. He exchanged some words with the young man next to him who smiled broadly and warmly. He told the woman at the desk that he would not be going on the swimming outing of the day, but instead would like to deliver Meals on Wheels.


The vibe in the room was calm and pleasant, except for a girl named Jess who was agitated. Sandy mentioned to her that all of the tables in the adjacent program room could use wiping and that Jess knew exactly where the cleaning products were.  Although her answer sounded combative and disagreeable, I could tell that the answer soothed her and gave purpose to her excessive energy. Off she went to clean and scrub her way to a happier disposition – Jess, I feel ya, sister.

There is a good number of young men & women with Down syndrome in Ethan’s day program. Do you know they are my favorite? They always have been and probably always will be. A friend of Ethan’s, who is gregarious and flamboyant, wearing mardi gras beads and a huge, plastic cross necklace came over and hugged me around the neck. He asked me if I knew that he loved Sandy. I professed my love for her as well. He said she was like his second mom, but I happen to know that his mom recently passed away. I was thinking that I am glad Sandy chooses to spend her days doing what she does – running the day program – or being ‘the mom’.

Both are very noble.

As Sandy and I discussed the difficulties in navigating benefits and programming through the adult developmental disabilities programs of New Jersey, new arrivals continued to stream through the doors. This time, Dennis left his seat to open the door for everyone. He is the most pleasant guy. When I met Dennis we laughed for a long time over the fact that my husband’s name is Dennis and his mom’s name is Janet. His pleasure at this factoid was ridiculously contagious – so we laughed for way too long and it felt way too good.

In the room, everyone was engaged in something they wanted to be doing. The Wii was on and a boxing match was carrying on. One young lady announced that she needed to go to the art room – immediately. Someone was reading, somebody drawing, and everyone was chatting. That is my favorite. I loved seeing everyone engage with each other waiting to head out on whatever missions they had in store for the day. The vibe in the room was ‘happy togetherness’ and Ethan could use some of that. Hell, who couldn’t?

Eventually, I had to leave, because as much as I like it there, it’s Ethan’s place and I can only visit.

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