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My brother Barry (Bubba to those of us that love him) really likes to go shopping. I especially enjoy the times he goes shopping with me--it is a special sort of bonding time between us, and it means the world to me.

Of course, since my health has deteriorated so badly in the past year or two, I can't go shopping as often as I used to, but that doesn't seem to bother Barry much, just makes our times together even more special.

I begin our special day out with a phone call to Mom, telling her I am going to pick Barry up at school. He goes to an activity center for the mentally disabled here in town. While he does indeed love his school and the time he spends there (remind me to tell you sometime about Mrs May, one of the finest women to walk the planet) he also enjoys the break in routine of my showing up outside the door to his classroom.

The classroom door is usually open when I go into the building, and I can hear them wrapping up for the day. I ease myself around the edge of the door frame, and peek my head into the room. Barry himself usually doesn't see me right off the bat, but some of the other clients do. It only takes the first enthusiastic "Hey, Susan!" from one of my friends to catch my Bubba's attention though, and it is time for a "Bubba grin" and a "Bubba yell" to make sure everyone knows that Barry is getting a break from the routine and that he is quite happy about it.

He immediately jumps up, carefully pushes his chair under the table, and goes to close the blinds in the room--that is one of his jobs both there and at home, and he takes his jobs very seriously. Then, if he hasn't already done so, he must lock Mrs. Mays cabinet--he knows where she keeps the key, and considers it his job to unlock it in the morning and lock it in the afternoon.

This done, he grabs his lunchbox and heads out the door, usually leaving me standing there chatting with everyone--but when he gets outside he finds the passenger door locked and has to come back inside to get me (I always forget to unlock it for him before I go inside).

So he rushes me along, for I am sure he already has visions of a perfect day dancing around in his head, much as I do. We both love our time together, there is nothing more special to me, and from the grins on his face, my picking him up at school and taking him shopping is pretty high on his list of favorite things to do as well.

So we are off!! We buckle up and whip around the gravel circle and head out to the highway to hit the stores. By now I am well into my litany with him, asking about all his jobs and whether or not he has done them today, and his hand is in constant motion making the sign language hand nod that means yes, with a big old grin on his face. I also ask him where he wants to go, and he points me along the way to his shopping place of preference--either Food World or Wal-Mart. Sometimes we have to go to a local gas station and food mart for gas first, and the girls that work there all know him. I am usually in the office chatting with my friend who works there, while he is out in the store seeing what he wants to buy--it is usually a box of salt and sometimes a small box of Reynolds Wrap, and always a Diet Dr Pepper and a Diet Pepsi for me. Used to be he would linger around outside the office waiting for me to come help him pay, but he has gotten good at it, and one of the girls there really helps him out with counting his money out to pay for it--I was shocked the first time I came out and told him "Ok, lets pay for your stuff" and was told he had already done it--sometimes my Bubba amazes even me!

Then we are ready for the real shopping to begin--usually I have a list of my own, and try to convince him to wait till I am done then we can shop for him--doesn't always work, though, so sometimes it takes a compromise. If we have plenty of time and I am feeling good, we stop off at the snack bar in Wal-Mart and get popcorn and a drink and sit and chat for a bit--Bubba loves his popcorn! So I sit there and drink a diet soda myself and mention all the things he is likely to want to buy, and watch the excitement dancing around in his eyes when I name something good, like Reynolds Wrap, Nabisco Double Stuff Oreos, Morton Salt, Tide, Nabisco Honey-Made Graham Crackers, Cheer--well, you get the idea--he has lots of favorite things. His toys have always been empty boxes of name brand items--we don't really know why, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that he sees them on TV, and it tickles him to have the same thing he sees on the commercials--did I mention how much Bubba loves commercials? While other people watch a program on TV and get up during the commercials to do other things, Barry comes running into the room for the commercials and goes out when the program comes back on!

Well, I guess he has things all planned out by the time the popcorn is gone, for he usually sets off at a run when we get up to finish shopping. It takes constant supervision to keep him with me--if I look away for even a second and he can be gone! For someone that is over 6 feet tall, and very generously proportioned, you would be amazed at how quickly I can lose him in a store!

His first order of business in Wally World is usually the aluminum foil aisle. He always picks up the 200 foot roll first, with an eager glint in his eye. When I mention the price, though (usually 5 or 6 dollars) he makes the decision based on how much money he has in his billfold whether he wants that large a box or not. Maybe once every 2 months or so he splurges and gets the biggest box, but most of the time he is content with the 2 dollar 75-foot roll. Then the detergent aisle is right next in line, so he slips into it, and longingly caresses the giant Tide box--it's always 10 bucks or more, so he almost never can afford it, but that doesn't stop him from wanting it. He is quite the con man, though, and knows just how to work those eyes of his to convince me to chip in and get the big box he so desires. He will pick it up and hoist it high in the air above his head, and cut his eyes up to gaze at it with an adoring look on his face. If I am the least bit able to afford it, I do split the cost with him, and we make a detour by my home first to dump it into my detergent container. If it is not possible for either one of us to afford it, though, he can usually be talked into a smaller box, but I hate to do that to him. Bubba's pleasures are simple, and I do so love putting a grin on his face, so we splurge when we can.

Sometimes he wants something Nabisco, but with Dad diabetic and he himself likely to develop diabetes down the road, I try to steer him away from the really sweet stuff. Sometimes he wants a bottle of Bayer Aspirin, which I carefully dump out before we get him home--I usually chip in on these too, since they are relatively expensive, and all he wants are the empty bottle and the box.

Okay, by now he has plumb tuckered me out--I am usually dragging behind him as we head to the checkout lane. I have a wad of one dollar bills in my pocket for his things--we learned the hard way that if you don't collect the money from Barry as you go along shopping with him, that a tantrum at the checkout lane over the price is quite possible--maybe it's just easier for him to hand over 2 or 3 bills at a time than to shell out 10 or so in one fell swoop--who knows, but I learned from other's mistakes and I have the money for his purchases in hand when we get to the checkout lane. He heads on to the front of the store and sits on the bench while I take care of paying for things. Then he puts things in the car and we head to my apartment, for his job isn't done yet!

Barry is, as I tell him all the time, MY BEST HELPER. So after a trying day shopping and struggling to keep up with him, I need someone to haul my purchases inside for me. This is one of his jobs, and it always earns him a few more dollars. If he has bought Tide, he dumps it in my container in my laundry room (I have a 2 gallon bucket full, as well as 2 one-gallon pickle jars full, and a cabinet shelf full of the Tide detergent tablets--wonder if one can sell excess laundry detergent on Ebay?     :-)

Then he gets into my cheese--Barry just loves individually wrapped cheese slices, and Mom can't buy them anymore because Bubba will eat a whole pack at once--she used to hide them but he got too good at finding them, so now he just steals a slice or two whenever he finds them at anyone else's house!

Finally, it's time for him to go home, and I take him back to my parent's house. We have separated our things and put his all in one bag by now, and I drive him across town to their house, and sit and watch to make sure he gets into the house before I pull off, returning to my own home to rest and recover from a day of trying to keep up with Barry. I have a smile on my face, though, for the time we have spent together and the memories we have created--life to me is all about enjoying yourself, and I never have more fun than when I am with my Bubba, doing whatever I can to make him smile, for I know that when he is happy, I will be happy too! That's what life is all about!!

Friskyangel (SAB) May 18, 2001