Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dennis

Shortly after his mother died, my sixtyish special needs neighbor, Dennis rolled us next to me on his three-wheeled bike.  I was working in my garden.  I noticed that Dennis seemed unusually troubled, so I stopped pulling weeds and gave him my full attention.   "You okay, Dennis?"

“I gotta tell you sometin’,” he began, choking back tears.  “Will you be my mutter now? ‘Cause you look like you’d be a good mutter.  I wish you were my mutter because my mutter is in heaven now and she would like you to take over.”

He gave me such a forlorn, faraway look that I started to choke back my own tears.  I didn’t know how to answer him, but I made a feeble attempt to help him feel better.

“Dennis,” I said, “You have your brother to take care of you now, and I know he loves you.  I’ll tell you what, though, I would like you to come to work for me when I have the farm ready. Would you like to come to work for me?”

“I gotta tell you sometin’,” he replied, “I’m a good worker.  I will work hard for you.  When do I start?”  He gave me a crooked smile that melted my heart.

“As soon as I get everything ready.”  I said, “Sometime around March.”

He was ready to start work immediately, and it broke my heart to tell him that he had to wait because I was still working out all the details of making my farm into a place of employment for special needs adults.

Dennis is in his early sixties, stands about 5’7” and probably weighs in at over 300 pounds. He has the mental capacity of about a five-year-old, but he is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen.  I was anxious to give him the opportunity to have a “real job.”  His visit inspired me to double my efforts to get “Hallelujah Acres” up and running.  Dennis was counting on me.

It wasn’t long after our talk in the garden that Dennis stood on my porch looking down at me as I opened the door.  His three-wheel bike was parked behind him.

“I gotta tell you sometin,’” he said as he took his notepad and pen out of his pocket, “When do I come to work for you?  I gotta tell you sometin’,” he continued, “write it down, so I know when to come.”

I tried to answer his question as I took the pad and pen, but I wasn’t quick enough.

“I gotta tell you sometin’...that pen is a good pen.  Lots of people try to take it away from me, and I won’t let them.  I’m a good worker you know.  I will work hard for you.  So when do I start?”

“Dennis,” I said patiently as I started to write March 15th on the paper, “I’m hoping to be ready to start the farm in March.”

“I gotta tell you sometin’,” he replied, “When is March?”

To Dennis March was eons away from January.   I looked at his expectant face as I began to write.  I got as far as the “Ma” and stopped.  “How about you come to work on Monday?” I said.

“I gotta tell you sometin’.  When’s Monday?”

“In three days.” I said as I turned the “a” into an “o” and wrote Monday’s date on his paper.

“I gotta tell you sometin’.  That pen is a good pen.”

“I know it is, Dennis.”  I said as I handed the pen back to him, “I’ll see you on Monday.”

Monday arrived and so did Dennis - peddling up on his three wheeler right on time.  He pulled his lunch box out of his basket and informed me through his practically toothless grin that he was ready to work.

Dennis went right to work on the farm; planting flowers, rearranging the shed and helping me with the chickens.  When we sat down to eat lunch, I noticed that my cat, Butterscotch, was not acting right.  After lunch, I tried to pick him up, and he yowled in pain, so Dennis and I took a trip to the vet’s office.

The news was not good; Butterscotch had several bladder stones that were blocking his ability to pee.  He was weak and very sick.  The only way he could be saved was to put him under anesthesia and attempt to unblock his bladder.  It was risky because he was so sick and the vet informed me that he might not survive the anesthesia, but we had to try.  We left Butterscotch under the care of the vet and went home.

As we walked through the door, Dennis told me to sit at the table.  I sat down. “Now we’re gonna say a prayer for your cat.” He said as he folded his hands.  “What’s his name?”

“Butterscotch,”  I said as I folded my hands and bowed my head.

“Dear God, please take care of ‘Butterbutt.'  He is a good cat.  He will be all better because you won’t let him die.  Amen.”

“Thank you, Dennis.”  I said through my tears, “I hope he will be okay.”

“Oh, I know ‘Butterbutt’ will be okay,” He said happily, “‘cause my mutter is up there with God, and she will make sure that God will make ‘Butterbutt’ all better.”

"Butterbutt" came home later that evening and, although he was still very sick, he had a fighting chance.

The next day, Dennis came to see him.

“See,” he said, “I told you he’d be fine ‘cause I prayed to God for him, and God always listens to me.”

“I bet he does,” I said to Dennis as he made his way to his trusty three-wheeler.

The Bible says, “a little child shall lead them.” I believe that Dennis, although a grown man on the outside, has a childlike trust in God.  He is my “little child” angel.  Whenever I get discouraged or start second-guessing my “Hallelujah Acres” dream, Dennis is there to lead me forward.  I know I need him as much as he needs me.  His unshakable faith keeps me believing that Hallelujah Acres is what God wants me to do.

“I gotta tell you sometin’,” Dennis said as he pulled away on his bike, “I love workin‘ for you!”