There’s a man in our town that’s as much of a fixture as the water tower or the high school on the hill. If you’ve lived in our town for more than 10 years, you know this man. He’s about 50 now and he has mental retardation. He comes to all of the high school sporting events, especially football. He helps “direct” the band and they even gave him a varsity jacket. He rides his bike around town all year round and he spends his summer days at the local pool.
He fascinates me. I am always drawn to adults with special needs. I want to look in their eyes and see if they’re happy and if they’ve had a good life. I want to pick their mother’s brains to see how they made it through.
A couple of weeks ago, while he was at the pool, someone stole his bike. Like I said, if you live here, you know him and you also know his bike. It was terrible. The police were called but they didn’t find it. He was distraught. I was so angry for him because, of course, I could imagine what it would be like for Olivia. The next day he came over and talked to me. He said that his brother was coming and that’s why he set up his chairs. His brother was a doctor and they were going to a baseball game at 7:00. I love talking to him, I really do. He’s so sweet. His brother came and was talking to him and asked him how he got there. He said his Mom dropped him off because he still didn’t have his bike. His brother said “Come with me for a minute.”
This man returned and had the biggest smile on his face and shouted “A new bike! Dr. So and So (he calls his brother Dr!) got me a new bike!” I, of course, had tears in my eyes just at his excitement and at his brother’s caring. But then the teenage lifeguards, who he sits with each and every day, all got excited and said “Bring it here! We want to see it!” They were all thrilled for him and were genuinely happy for him and cared about him.
I was a puddle after that.
It just touched me so. I worry so much about how Olivia will be treated, especially as she gets older, and about who will take care of her. It just showed me a glimpse into how you really can have a village to help.
His Mom came too to see all of the excitement. He had told me earlier that they were having a party for her later because she was turning 80. I so wanted to go bend her ear. I wanted to ask her so many questions and glean anything I could from her wisdom of 50 years of parenting a child with special needs. But I didn’t and instead just sat there watching the love through my tears and hoping that Olivia will be that lucky to have so many people who love her and watch out for her when she’s 50.