Caleb is 23 years old and has Down's Syndrome. He works as a grocery clerk and is fastidious about the excellence of his work.
A charming aspect of Caleb is that while he is very rooted in the real world and understands handling his money, taking care of himself and being a productive citizen, he also still loves the fantasy part of childhood. He has known the truth about Santa Claus for many years, but continues to believe in his heart of hearts that Santa really does exist and that his North Pole workshop is a busy place all the year round.
Caleb decided earlier this year that it was time for him to experience life on his own. He dialogued with his parents for months about having his own apartment. Initially reluctant, his parents painstakingly worked out a plan for Caleb and spent another several months going over all the aspects with him. When they were satisfied this was going to be a viable lifestyle for him, his mother reminded him of her most important rule. "Caleb, when I call you, you have to answer, no matter what. I will be very worried about you if I call and you do not answer the phone."
"Mom, don't worry about me. I will always answer the phone for you," he assured her.
Caleb had been in his new apartment less than a mile away from his parents for several weeks and the transition was amazingly smooth. He answered promptly every time they called, took good care of himself and his apartment, and continued to work very hard at his job.
One Saturday morning, his mother called Caleb and the phone rang until it went to voice mail. She waited 15 minutes, called again, and had the same result. Growing concerned, she waited another 15 minutes, and when she called this time and still had no answer, she grabbed her purse and headed to the car to drive to his place.
On the way over, she called him again. This time, he answered.
"Caleb, what is happening? I've been so worried! I've been calling you and you haven't answered!"
Caleb was a little breathless but sounded in high spirits. "Don't worry, Mom. I'm OK. I answered it now."
"What were you doing?" she inquired with some worry.
"Well, Mom, I was busy. I was catching an elf," he informed her.
His mother knew all too well of Caleb's firm belief in the real Santa Claus and his helpers.
"An elf? Caleb, are you sure?"
"Yes, Mom. I caught an elf," he repeated.
"I'm almost there, son. We'll talk more then."
His mother could not imagine what scenario would be awaiting her, but it gave her comfort that Caleb sounded well and happy.
The first thing she noticed upon arriving at Caleb's apartment was that the front door was slightly ajar. Her heart raced a little faster as she pushed it opened. Her stomach did a flip flop as she walked into the living room and saw complete chaos. Furniture was overturned, a lamp was broken, and paper was scattered on the floor.
"Caleb!" she yelled.
"Mom, I'm in the kitchen fixing a sandwich. Come on in, " he called back to her.
She zipped into the kitchen and her heart fell even further when she saw the disarray there. A chair was upside down, some plates had fallen to the floor, and the table was catty corner to its usual position.
"Oh, honey, what has happened?"
Caleb turned from the counter where he was building his sandwich. His blond hair was disheveled and he was sweating. He grinned. 'I told you, Mom, I was catching an elf! He's supposed to be at the North Pole right now, so I wanted to keep him safe for Santa."
His mother's mind raced, trying to make sense of the scene and his words.
"Can you explain to me a little more? I'm just not understanding," she implored.
Caleb put down the sandwich and took his mom's hand gently, as if she were a small child. "Mom, I caught an elf. It was a lot of work, and now I'm hungry, so I'm making a sandwich," he explained to her slowly.
Deciding to go with the flow, his mother asked, "OK. Then where is the elf?"
Caleb pointed to the closet, which had a chair jammed under the door handle. "He's in there, Mom!"
His mother eyed the door warily. She drew closer and heard muffled noises from within and the door knob rattled.
"Be careful, Mom. He's fast for an old guy."
She took a deep breath and pulled the chair away from the door. She pulled it open.
There, red faced and in a corner of the closet, was an older man who was a dwarf. He had a white goatee. He was also spitting mad.
The story that unfolded was that this man had been knocking on doors and passing out tracts for the Jehovah Witnesses. He asked Caleb if he could come in and that's when the action commenced.
After much explaining and talking, the elderly dwarf was convinced not to press charges. Caleb now knows that elves have to go free and will find their way back to Santa on their own.
Caleb chuckles when people try to explain to him that Santa isn't real. He's had the proof right there in his kitchen. Sometimes the regular people in his life aren't too swift, but he loves them anyway.