I was once asked what I’ve learned from living with an incurable disease. I didn’t really have a determinate answer, but I did say having chronic illness has given me a deeper compassion, one I can’t quiteexplain. Being a young woman in her mid-20s, most people think I’m in perfect health. However, on the outside, I look nothing like what my body has really felt like for the past three years.
Swelling, joint pain, raw stiffness, throbbing muscles, needle-burning pain and fatigue were just some of the things my body woke to one September morning in Colorado. My body was not my own; everything from my knees, shoulders, hips and hands were all in pain. I limped to my bathroom to brush my teeth, but my hand couldn’t hold the toothbrush.
Age all of a sudden age didn’t matter when I met David in graduate school. It never really mattered before to me but most the friends I have made in the past are around my age. I noticed him my first term when no one really talked to him and he was usually alone. This term, I was determined to change that. I sat by him. We started chatting about many things: my working with special needs children, our masters program, how we both have no clue what we’re going to do with the degree- things like that. I noticed how he would rarely look me in the eyes. I’ll never forget after I was telling him about working with special needs children he said, “Well I have Aspergers, so that’s why I’m a little weird and I never really know what to say or I have a hard time making eye contact.” He has high functioning Autism. He’s like Adam in the movie, Adam. All I said was, “You’re not weird, David.” From then on we pretty much sat by each other every class, did our first graduate presentation together over people with disabilities, or go to Starbucks to work on projects together. Today we went fishing at my favorite lake here in the Springs. It was hilarious because it was cold when the sun went down and our hands went numb. However, we had a darn good laugh. We pretty much ice fished.
Age isn’t a factor in our friendship. He’s well in his 60’s and everyone knows I’m in my 20’s. He’s the first person here I seem to connect with; he’s just David. Fun, goofy, goes on random tangents (like myself), David. Sometimes he’ll apologize for his long “ramblings” but I don’t mind because he has to sit and listen to mine too. We talk about God, spirituality, fishing, psychology, and what a privilege it is that we are getting higher education and how we wished more students took it more seriously and honored education rather than taking it for granted. We talk a lot about children with autism and tonight we talked about ways to unlock doors (not physically) for these children at Wendy’s (all the way at Woodland Park) with hot chili and cocoa. We must have sat for 2 hours. He says the most peculiar things like, “I want to figure out why your blood cells were going ballistic or maybe they still are, or why you feel the pain you do” or “I wonder why you can’t figure out what you want to do with your life. I guess that’s okay. I mean, I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” I get to ramble on and on to him about how it’s difficult for me to relate to a lot of what my generation finds enjoyable. I go on about how I feel like I’m an 80 year old woman stuck in a 20 something year old body, because of the pain I feel or that all I seem to ever want to do if I’m not outside is play scrabble. Least he thinks I’m funny. He’s pretty blunt and so am I. Two peas in a pod– however that saying goes.
When I think of a good friend, I think of David. Our relationship is very much like Iris Simpkins and Arthur Abbott in the movie The Holiday (check one of my fav scenes atop on the right). When I was driving us around places, I told him, “You’re going to get annoyed of me, because we’re going to hang out a lot more.” His reply was, “Well that would be real swell.”
I don’t know all the reasons why God moved me to my sweet home Colorado, but I like to think it could have been to shed some light in this man’s life (after all that he’s been through and has told me) or maybe it was for him to teach me something. I learn something new from him almost every second- literally. Most the time I’m super honest with him and I’ll tell him, “David, I didn’t follow that.” Repeats self. As we were driving back on highway 24, the moon was so bright I could still see the mountains. I told him to take a photo of the moon between the forest trees. The whole time he was video recording on and off. I came home with 7 videos of me repeating the same thing in every video, “Did ya get it? Oh so pretty.” I was rolling. Dear reader, I hope you have a great Christmas this year. Reach out to someone who maybe lonely- maybe someone different from you, I don’t know just reach out. It could change your life more than you think it will theirs.