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Barry is my 38 year old mentally retarded brother--my "Bubba", my best friend. Mentally he is, and always will be, a child. As such, Christmas is one of his favorite holidays, for it generally means PRESENTS and GOOD FOOD!!

My Bubba loves his presents as much as any child; but his toys are a bit different from all the Megazords and Pokemons that are all the rage these days. For Barry, all it takes is a bit of trash--an empty Tide Detergent box, a Reynolds Wrap box (though he prefers that these NOT be empty), any kind of Nabisco product (again, empty is okay, but he likes his Oreos as much as any child--heck, as much as most adults as well!) :-)


Money is good too. Usually a stack of ones is what most folks give him. Sometimes he gets larger bills, and though I think he does realize they are money just like the ones, he's just not aware of how much more valuable they can be. After a holiday or birthday, when he has gotten a 5 or 10, or sometimes even a 20 dollar bill, it will stay in his billfold for awhile, almost as if he doesn't want to part with it. I can see the surprise and confusion in his eyes when I tell him to give me that big bill, and then he keeps putting stuff in the buggy, and I keep telling him that I already have enough money. I just don't think he gets it. But we have fun shopping anyways!

Barry can't speak, but he does have a series of sounds he can make to express emotion or strong opinions about something. There are several angry yells, a few "ummmmm"-type sounds to convey displeasure, a couple to indicate pain, and then there are the best ones--the ones we all love to hear: the happy yells. There's what I call the "doorbell yell"--it means someone is at the door or has pulled up in the yard--basically it's his "Hey, come look!" sound. Actually he has several of those. They are pretty much just to get your attention and let you know he is trying to tell you something. Then we come to my personal favorite, what I call the "Christmas Yell". For as long as I can remember, there's been a contest among the family members to see whose gift will get the biggest, loudest, happiest yell out of Barry. As I said, he uses these sounds to express strong emotion, and total and complete joy and excitement is the very best emotion of all!

At our house, we could always pick one present to open on Christmas Eve; but everything else had to wait until the next morning. And since we got the video camera back in 1987, opening gifts has to wait until Mom and Dad have gotten coffee and I have started up the video-taping. Seems that lately the rest of us don't seem to get all that excited about gifts. We all are more interested in watching Barry's reaction as he opens his presents. A stack of "ones" in an envelope was always a sure-fire cause for a good old all the way from the gut belly laugh; and, if the stack was tall enough, it might even earn the coveted "biggest yell" from Bubba. But so many folks use that approach that it isn't really cause for excitement the way it used to be.

He buys his own salt boxes and foil boxes nearly every shopping trip with me. So that won't do it anymore, either--with one exception. Sam's Supermarket had a 500 foot roll of Reynolds Wrap--one of those big ones that restaurants use. That was the big winner one year. Now, they don't sell that anymore; but they do sell a pack of 2 - 250 foot rolls, which I am planning to buy him this year.

One year, I had mentioned to my cousin, Bridget, how much he always wanted that gigantic Tide box from Sam's. That sucker was HUGE! So, she bought it, wrapped it up, and saved it for the family gathering at Ma-maw's. I think the echoes from that Christmas yell may still be bouncing around somewhere in outer space!

Sometimes I try to make him something special. One year, I made a needlepoint picture. It was just a rectangular sheet of plastic canvas on which I worked a Reynolds Wrap box, Tide box, Pepsi can, and a Nabisco logo, along with his name. He still carries it around with him, though it's looking a bit worse for the wear--maybe it's time to make him a new one!

One other big success in the present department was the year he got a suit. There aren't too many occasions when Barry gets to dress up--usually only once or twice a year for school parties. Maybe that's why he loved getting that suit and tie so much--because having a nice outfit like that brings to his mind parties and presents and good food!

Christmas is approaching this year--only five days until Christmas day. I want to get him that big box of foil from Sam's. I already have an Oreo lunch box tin for him that I will fill up with assorted goodies, along with some iron-on transfers of some of his favorite boxes. I made them on my computer, and plan to put them on a sweat shirt for my Bubba--with this present I am hoping that the much sought after Christmas yell will be MINE, for when I hear this yell, I know that Barry is happy, that life is good, and that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in our household! Merry Christmas to all!!

Friskyangel (SAB), December 20, 2000