Charley on the new bike with Trevor standing by his side.

When My Son's Friend, Who Also Has Down Syndrome, Gave Him a Bike


For the longest time, Charley has been bugging us to get him a bike. Like every five minutes.

It started around Christmastime.

“Mom, I want bicycle,” he’d say.

“It’s winter. No one rides in the winter,” I’d say.

“Oh, I do.”

I’d open the blinds, “In the snow?”

“Yup.”

“Not happening,” I’d say, and he’d stomp up the stairs. I could hear him in his room saying, “Mom said no.”

Then spring came along. Enough time to forget about the bike. Thank you, Lord. Or was it? Every time we passed a bike in a driveway. Every time a bicycler passed us on the road, he’d point, “I me one.” (Charley may have speech challenges, but never fails to communicate.) And I do mean, every single time.

“Mom, remember, I want bicycle,” he said one morning. Thanks a lot, Lord.

“Maybe someday,” I said. But probably not. Again, he’d stomp, “Mom said no. Again.”

Did Charley know how much these things cost? Not that we wouldn’t spend the money on him, but the last time we bought him a bike his foot got stuck in one of the spokes. He fell off, kicked it and said, “It no work.”

He never got back on.

I reminded him of that. “Charley, we can’t just go buy you a bike. Everybody knows you’re supposed to get right back on the horse.”

He looked around, “What horse?”

“It’s a figure of speech, Son. It means when you fall off the bike you have to get right back on. You can’t just give up.”

He nodded his head, “Pleeeeaaaassseee. I promise.”

“We can’t just go buy it. We have to save up.”

“Woohoo!” His enthusiasm was contagious. So much so I found myself at Dick’s Sporting Goods looking at the bikes.

A sales associate approached me, “May I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for a bike.”

“Who’s it for?” she asked.

“My son.”

“These are the girls’ bikes.” she said.

She was right. I was standing there looking at the girls’ bikes. “Think one of these would fit me?”

“Sure, hop on,” she said and held the bike.

Steady now. Just hop on the bike. A little jump. There you go.

“Go ahead,” she said, “just a small hoist.”

She’d obviously not noticed the size of my rear end. “There’s no such thing as a small hoist,” I said. She tried not to smile, but I saw the curves of her lips.

“I’m trying to see if I can get a bike to keep up with my son. He just got a three-wheeler.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Honest, I really want to do this.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“I’m a little challenged. You see, I shattered my femur a few years back, and…”

“Yes Ma’am.”

I had one leg over the seat (well, partially). And one leg still on the ground.

“I’ll hold the bike, don’t worry,” she said.

“Don’t let me fall.” The bike wobbled.

Any minute now…

She looked at her watch.

“Lunch time?” I asked. Please say yes. Please say yes. “Um, yes Ma’am.”

Would you stop calling me Ma’am? What do you think I am, 95? No wonder I can’t get my rear end up onto this stupid thing. 

Need I tell you I came home without the bike? And worse, I came home without even getting on the bike.

Charley met me at the door.

“Mom, where were you?”

“Nowhere.”

“You got my bicycle yet?”

“Maybe sometime, but not today.”  Epic “F” in athletic parenting 101.

Later that week I told my sister about it, “Marcy, I’m thinking about getting a bike. I saw one on the yard sale site.”

I studied her face across the FaceTime screen.

“If I promise not to get one will you stop laughing?”

Every day Charley followed me around, “I promise. I promise.”

What was he promising? I have no idea. That he wouldn’t kick the bike? That he’d keep his foot out of the spokes? That he wouldn’t abandon the attempt to learn?

As luck would have it, he stopped asking. Problem solved.

This ranks right up there with: how naive I can be?

How long has he been my son? How long have I lived with that 21st chromosome? The one that operates like a diehard battery? Going on 27 years now? Silence means one thing: he’s concocting some plan to make me cave.

Just when I thought that subject was a done deal, there was a knock on the door. It was the neighbors, asking if Charley wanted to come across the street and play basketball. Thank you Lord. New friends. It’ll take his mind off the bike.

“Charley’s going to play basketball with Amanda, Shane and the girls,” I told my husband, Brad.

A few minutes later I looked out the window and what do you think I saw? My adult son on the little girls’ tricycle. And there, right beside him, were the neighbors. Walking down the street with my son as he attempted to pedal a bike meant for a 4-year-old. Needless to say, it was a little top heavy.

“We gotta get him a bike,” I told Brad. I posted about it and asked if anyone knew where we could get an adult tricycle. A half-hearted attempt at best.

That’s me, the one hiding behind the computer. Mother of the year. I’d done my part. At least I tried, didn’t I? At least we wouldn’t be chasing him around on some bike. I stand accused of being a little overprotective. OK, not a little. A lot. Point taken.

The next day rolled around, “Mom, you got my bike yet?” His face lit up with anticipation.

He had that same look on his face he had when he was determined to take his friend Jordan to the prom. I told him it probably wouldn’t happen. Still, he insisted, “Oh yes I are,” he said. Little did I know it was Jordan who invited him, not the other way around. The next thing I knew, he was in a tux. The man doesn’t give up. Ever.

“No, Charley, I didn’t get a bike yet. Let’s talk about it later, OK?”

His scrunched grin wilted, “My friend got a bicycle,” he said, his voice dropping a few decimals, referring to the neighbors and their pigmy-sized little three-wheeler. Like, geez, Mom and Dad, you guys just don’t get it.

“Forget about it, Son. Now I have spoken. Drop it. It’s not happening.” Lord, he’s wearing me out.

That settled it. We needed to get him a bike. But how? How do we do the impossible?

I sat down in my recliner and flipped open my iPad. Time to look at the newsfeed. To see what was what. And what do you think I saw?

A message from our friend Jackie at church, who said her friend Trevor saw my post and wanted to give Charley a bike.

Could this be? Someone would do this for our son? Someone he didn’t even know? Someone we’d never met?

Now. Before I go any further, I must tell you; it wasn’t the only offer. Our friend Tina from Knoxville saw the post, too. Two offers of getting a bike for Charley. I nearly fell out of my chair. People are so generous. There’s a reason I walk around with a lump in my throat.

Before I knew it, Trevor made a house call accompanied by his mom and dad and an adult sized tricycle in the back of a truck.

Charley had no idea. It was Trevor’s surprise. And it was not just any bike, it was his bike. He’d learned to ride a two-wheeler, and told his mom about Charley.

Charley on the new bike with Trevor standing by his side.

Every day Charley runs downstairs and says, “I go on my bicycle?” And every day he pedals his way around the neighborhood. And then again and again. And just like that, Charley is a big deal on wheels.

Yesterday during my husband’s sermon he was talking about Ecclesia, which means “to go out.”

“That is what we are called to do as a church,” he said. “To go out. Not to keep to ourselves in a building, but to take the church out of the building.”

As I sat there listening to him, I thought about Ecclesia and the people I’ve known over the years who know how to go out. Those who take meals and communion to those who cannot come to the church. Those who make home repairs for the elderly, and visit the sick in the hospital. There are a lot of ways to practice Ecclesia.

Sometimes it directly benefits the church, and sometimes it’s just a gesture. It’s church. It’s what you do. Any way you look at it, to practice Ecclesia is to do what God asks us to do.

I thought of Trevor and how he said Jesus had put it on his heart to give his bike to Charley.

How is it that we’ve been a clergy family for as long as I can remember, and yet along comes a young man with an extra chromosome who seems to nail this thing called Ecclesia? This “knowing” of how to go out? This sharing about Jesus in his heart?

The world refers to it as Down syndrome. I refer to it as heart. An extra heart, if you will.

It takes heart to reach out to someone you don’t know. To see a need and fill it. To take something you value and offer it to someone else. To get pleasure from making others happy. To expect nothing in return. No ulterior motives.

In a world that seems to concern itself with me-isms, boasting and upping one another, it’s good to know there’s a Trevor around. A Trevor with a heart bigger than the love of self. A heart that’s worth writing about.

I’ve always said, “Don’t underestimate that extra chromosome. The one that makes Down syndrome such a mystery. It often surprises in ways we least expect.”

On second thought, forget about the extra chromosome. Trevor has enough heart for the rest of us.

Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s son and Trevor.

Follow this journey at Life with Charley.

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