Down syndrome seen as blessing for mother/son author team
Lake Shastina’s Jannirose Fenimore believes her son’s ability to touch people’s hearts is encoded on his extra chromosomes.
Charlie – who plans to celebrate his 21st birthday later this month with a root beer – has Down syndrome. He is an author, music lover, Special Olympian, honorary “peace minister,” and a volunteer at College of the Siskiyous and the Lake Shastina Department of Public Safety.
His book, “Happy in Soul,” contains “prayers” he has dictated to Jannirose. Her book, “Loving Outside the Lines,” is a series of vignettes about the life lessons she’s learned from Charlie. It is her first book, and part of a series she calls “Lessons from an Earth Angel.”
Both books are available at Village Books in Mount Shasta and at The Weed Store in Weed.
“Open our hearts with loving joyness and fill our days with gladness,” says Charlie. “We must make a change to our souls and love people with kind relationships... Spiritness is kindness. Everyone must make this understanding.”
Sometimes Charlie’s prayers come in short phrases, and other times in complete sentences.
“Often, his words paint a subtle, impressionistic picture that invites deeper contemplation,” Jannirose said. “But on occasion, he delivers a line or two so stunningly clear that I’m certain he has a direct connection to the divine.”
Jannirose and her husband, George, who served 30 years in the Air Force, adopted Charlie from Medford, Ore., when he was a baby.
Later, when they were living in southwest Texas, she wrote a column, “The Awakening Heart” for the local newspaper.
When Charlie was 13, he told Jannirose he had a prayer and asked her to put it in the paper.
“It was well received,” Jannirose said. “Everyone loved it.”
She often wrote about Charlie during the 13 year run of her column and said those pieces were by far the most popular.
Charlie now “writes” his prayers ahead of time and reads them aloud at memorials, weddings and other occasions, said Jannirose.
From Ohio to Lake Shastina
The family moved to Lake Shastina from Yellow Springs, OH, last year, following Charlie’s graduation from high school.
They were driving north on Interstate 5 on a summer visit to Oregon when Charlie saw the College of the Siskiyous sign and asked if they could visit.
The moment they stepped on campus, he fell in love, Jannirose said.
In Yellow Springs, Charlie was the only kid with Down syndrome in the village. He’d heard all his friends talking about college, and he wanted to go, too, she said.
Soon after their visit, Jannirose said she knew they would move to the Weed area so Charlie could participate at COS.
She said she called athletic director Dennis Roberts, who was “amazing” and immediately found ways for Charlie to get involved.
Charlie now volunteers with the COS football, basketball and baseball teams.
“He’s the keeper of the team’s spirit,” said Jannirose.
Charlie is also a volunteer at the Lake Shastina Public Safety Department. He often attends meetings and sits quietly. When he does that, he’s “shining light,” he says.
“Charlie is awesome,” said Public Safety Chief Mike Wilson. “He’s a very dedicated volunteer, and he’s at almost every meeting... he likes to be involved.”
Wilson said Charlie was “Santa’s Elf” over the holidays, and rode along with the department handing out candy to children.
“He was a bigger hit than Santa,” he laughed.
Wilson said Charlie will also be assisting him with a big painting job this summer to improve the police station.
“We love having Charlie around,” Wilson said.
Jannirose, who was adopted herself as an infant, said she thought adoption was “a special way to give someone else the gift of a forever family.”
But it’s the many gifts that Charlie gives her and those around him that are the most special, she said.
Jannirose said when she is with Charlie, she feels her most beautiful. “He sees who I really am, and doesn’t focus on the superficial things that often get in the way,” she said. “When Charlie looks at me, he sees my heart and soul, which is a comfort and a blessing.”
Jannirose said she and Charlie are a strong team, “like two wings of an eagle.”
“Charlie and I need each other to bring this work to life – neither of us can accomplish it alone. He receives the messages though his finely-tuned heart and I record them – and carry them into the world... Charlie is a seasoned carrier of what he calls ‘joyness’ and a master in the heart-opening department,” Jannirose said. “As his mother, I’ve had an up-close view of countless lessons in living over the last two decades.”
In addition to local sellers, the books can be purchased online at jannirose.com