When I think of David, I think of Color
When I think of David, I think of color—all of the brightest, most beautiful colors—and not just because he makes beautiful drawings. I have been David’s caregiver for the past five years. When I started, he called me “Hamper” instead of Amber, which now has just become “Hamps”. I see color in the dependably hilarious way David teases me when I open the door to his room in the morning and he says “there’s that crazy girl. Hamps, you are so…weird!” And in the way he chooses a green Christmas shirt in July and tells himself, “green looks good on you. Very, very beautiful”. David is colorful in the way he greets all new people (especially the ladies) with enthusiasm and happiness. He loves everyone he meets. He brightens my world when we get Kids’ Meals at McDonald’s together, even if he always asks if he can keep my toy.
Some not-so-colorful things have happened in David’s life. One day, David and I were driving behind a car with a license plate that said, “BUTCHY”. David stopped teasing me and touched my arm gently, and quietly said, “Butchie…” in a way that made me pause. I remembered reading in David’s history that his brother Richard (nicknamed “Butchie”) was murdered during a robbery in the hotel where he worked. I glanced over and saw David staring at the glove box.
“I’m so sorry that happened David. I bet you miss him.”
David, who doesn’t often express how he’s feeling, simply said, “miss him” in a way that was so tender and full of grief it broke my heart. He stared a little longer, then looked at me, smiled, and said “Hamps, you are very, very crazy.” I wanted to pull over and hug him, but he isn’t a fan of hugs, so I asked if he wanted to get a root beer float instead. He did.
Later, David’s sister, Kathy, was over at David’s house. For whatever reason we started talking about Butchie and Kathy told me a story I now think of often. Kathy told me when she and David were on the way to Butchie’s funeral she was crying. David looked at Kathy and asked, “What are we gonna do now?” Kathy told him, “David, there is nothing we can do.” David thought about this and responded, “We can pray.” Kathy looked at him and smiled and said, “You’re right, we can pray.”
Kathy later wrote to me: “I always felt that David learned from us, but in that moment I realized that it was us who could learn from him, that those with disabilities can teach us so much about life, how to be kind to others, and they show us what really matters in life. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for David.”
I’ve only known David for five years, and I can say the same thing. I may be able to help David with things that are hard for him, like making a meal, tying a shoe, or driving a car, but the ability to perform these tasks isn’t the thing that gives people value. David doesn’t even realize that he has shown me by example how to see the world more colorfully when bad things happen, what true authenticity is, and that there isn’t just one right way to see the world. David is the rainbow after a storm.