One morning I was suddenly awoken by a wailing, screeching sound. It sounded like a sick animal, like a cat in labor. I grabbed my robe and dashed to the back door. There, crouched into a little ball, lay my adorable grandson, David. I scooped him into my arms and kissed away the salty tears that streamed down his face.
I knew immediately what happened. My spoiled daughter, Darla, abandoned him. Although her upbringing was in our Christian home, she was always a rebel. She eventually joined the wild drug culture; she was lost and hated us.
As a child without a father and an irresponsible mother, David was neglected. To make matters worse, he was a high functioning autistic child with mild retardation. We tried to obtain custody but no avail. Finally, raising a child wasn’t as thrilling as drug parties. She dropped David with us ending her motherly duties.
At 56 years of age I thought my child rearing years were over. I was retired from Fords and enjoyed the activities at my church and lodge. I was thoroughly in love with life. I really didn’t want the responsibility of raising a child again, but the haunted blue eyes, the tousled golden hair and the terrified countenance of David’s melted my heart.
After getting situated and renewing our relationship of grandson to grandfather, we became fast friends. David’s disability required my special attention. At eight years old even getting dressed was a great challenge for him. He’d call “Pop, Pop,” and I’d run to help him and relieve his distress.
He liked to watch television and was mesmerized by cartoons. Their vibrant colors and high-pitched voices kept him content as long as we allowed it, which was not long.
David had an affinity and talent towards art. He loved bright colors and crazy designs. Despite his disability, he could draw and color with amazing skill. I always encouraged him in his talent and his other accomplishments.
One Sunday morning David was watching me get ready for church. His eyes sparkled when they captured my bright paisley tie. “What is it,” he said as he pointed.
“It’s a tie. It completes my suit.”
“Tie, tie,” he cried, and he grabbed at it.
“Don’t grab! Here are some of my other ties,” and I spread out about a dozen ties. David was enchanted.
Afterwards, ties totally obsessed him. He loved their bright colors and designs. He loved the silky feel of them. Often, he’d walk around the house with an old tie draped around his neck.
Although he was autistic, he could be charming. Soon our friends, even acquaintances, knew of David’s love affair with ties. People donated hundreds of ties to him, and he treasured each one. He’d cup them gently in his hands, examine the colors, and press their soft texture against his checks. Every tie was his favorite!
The Christmas season made David come alive! Glowing lights, reds and greens, Christmas trees and brilliant poinsettias fueled David’s spirit. Our lodge gave a Christmas party every year, and I would bring David to it. Santa would be there distributing presents, and, David, although had become much older than the other tiny tots; he was thrilled to be there. He’d wait anxiously for Santa to call his name. When Santa finally did, David would run to his throne, flop on his lap, and exclaim, “Tie, tie!” The crow would be so happy and pleased that David received another tie. Laughter and giggles would grace the room, and Santa would be delighted.
David is 27 years old now and lives in a group home with other disabled people. He still collects ties; he has over thousands of them. He proudly shows them to me when I visit.
Raising David was a challenge yet a blessing to me. Seemingly, an ember of innocence surrounded him. He never knew a stranger and spoke freely to all kinds of people. His interest in art gave me a deeper understanding of beauty. He taught me how to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, like butterflies, song birds, and daffodils. And, he even taught me to appreciate dazzling, delightful ties.
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