Joy Ride

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As a mother of 3 teenage boys,  I have to think that the odds are pretty high at least one of them might  be brought home in the paddy wagon before they move out of the house.


What’s not probable, however, is that the teen would be waving and yelling “Sorry, Mama!” from the back seat of the cruiser as it pulled into our driveway.




The criminal is Kelly, our 13 year old son with Down Syndrome. His getaway vehicle was his sister’s powder blue bike with white tires and bluebirds on the seat.

His crime: Taking a Joy ride   


This year, Kelly started Middle School and his bus comes to pick him up at 7:00 am. Even though he is in bed by 8:30 or 9 every night, I still have to wake him up every morning. Poor guy just wants to stay in his warm bed.

If only this applied to the weekends…

Kelly has a selective, internal waking sensor. His subconscious knows that on the weekends, Mom sometimes does not rise at her early hour and there is potential fun to be had. Kelly wakes unassisted Saturday and Sunday morning, usually much earlier than any other living creature in the house. With stealth, he gets dressed and slinks downstairs. I am assuming that on the particular Saturday morning of the crime, our downstairs seemed a tad boring; no iphones lying about, computers all locked or put away, gaming devices hidden. A quick peek outside and a beautiful fall day beckoned.

Kelly has been told time and time again not to leave the house in the morning and never to go out of our yard without telling us.

No matter. He does it all of the time anyway, consequences be damned.

This is because Kelly’s brain is wired for joy.

From the moment he wakes up until the moment he falls off to sleep, Kelly does whatever feels good to Kelly in the moment. After over a decade of this behavior, I have learned to anticipate most of his actions…that is, if I am awake.

On this particularly beautiful morning, Kelly decided it would feel good to take his sister’s bike for a spin, and when he got to his boundary at the end of the street, I’m assuming he looked around, broke into a wide grin and pedaled into freedom. When I came downstairs and there was no sign of him or the bike, I had a feeling. I checked his usual haunts in the neighborhood and sent his Dad out to look. I didn’t waste much time before I called local police. I knew with their radio communication they would find the criminal, and in no time and they did, about two miles from home, heading to his new school.

It can be frustrating raising a child who doesn’t listen to his parents and blatantly breaks the rules, just because he feels like having a little fun.

Hmm…let’s analyze that sentence for a minute, shall we? I just described a teenager!

And since I already have two of those, I can honestly say that the Kelly version is not any more difficult. In fact, I find I can almost always learn something from Kelly.  The lesson is usually to lighten up, have more fun, and not give a damn what anyone thinks.

Granted, he sometimes pisses some people off. I’m sure the local police might have felt their resources may have been better used that Saturday morning. But I’m the one who called the cops, not Kelly.  The perceived danger was born from my fear, not his. It can get scary not knowing where your child is, especially when he has a disability.

But is he truly the one who is disabled? Yes, it’s true that he cannot complete some intellectual tasks at same speed as his typically developing peers, and his decisions don’t always follow what some would consider a logical pattern. That’s just because he’s wired differently. It doesn’t necessarily make it wrong or inferior. In fact, I think Kelly has the clear advantage because he truly doesn’t give a damn!

He also doesn’t care what his GPA is or how popular he is. He doesn’t care if a food is “good” for him or if his clothes are stylish or is his hair looks cool. All he cares about is his own happiness and the well being of the ones he loves.

Interesting concept. Makes you stop and wonder who really has the “disability”.

When Kelly was born, my oldest brother wrote me a letter. We didn’t know that Kelly had Down Syndrome before he was born, so we were in shock for a while. At the time, I didn’t understand the full meaning behind his wise words. I didn’t know who Kelly was going to be yet, nor did I understand that he would be our teacher.

Now, I read it and nod. Time and time again it comes down to the same thing: 

Let joy and love lead you around by the nose.

It might really be just that simple.


Dear Kelly “Unconditional” Thurmond,

Hey bud. Welcome to this crazy world. Thanks for dropping in on us. We’ve been expecting you and we’re glad you made it in one piece. You gave your mom and dad quite a dramatic entrance to show that there is something quite extraordinary about you and people better take notice.

Like all great men and women of the past, sometimes people don’t know what to make of you at first. One of the coolest things about greatness is that you really won’t care. You will see things immediately that they do not. You have an innate understanding of all that really matters in the world. You hold in your hands the key to the mysteries of the universe, and most will rush blindly past you in their quest to attain it. If they took the time to boil down all the messages of every prophet who has ever walked this Earth from any religion, they would see the Truth written all over you. But most people are so unable to see beyond themselves that they miss it entirely.

Yeah, the big boys with their M.D., PH.D.’s say you have a “condition”. Education is not all it’s cracked up to be. What school did Jesus graduate from? The Buddha? Mohammed couldn’t even read and write. The big boys are blind. We are the ones with the “condition”. You will not be a lab rat in this rat race. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, King, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and so on, they all stood for the Truth that you are. The big “G” must love your parents and your brothers a lot to honor them with your presence. We all have a lot to learn from you. Be patient with us-we won’t always see the Truth that constantly radiates from you-we’re a bit slow, you see. Teach us to see what you see always-

“unconditional love”

From your uncle, with gratitude-

The Hermit of Woodchuck Hollow 

1/20/2000                  (written by my dear brother, Matthew Rozell)

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Check out the character in the background. Now that’s what I call a Joy ride.