David Young is at the edge of a new landscape - a new life in California. He is intelligence personified, working its way through a completely new set of possibilities. I have been given the rare gift of watching the process first hand.
At least that is how I feel most of the time. Sometimes I get frustrated. Frustrated that I cannot relieve the suffering that began for David when he was seven years old. At times I see beyond the fifty something body to the heart of a seven year old taken from his adopted parents and I want to cry out. What pain he must have felt. Its sharpness still stabs him when he is frustrated or frightened or just tired. What a joy it is to see him find new ways to put the suffering aside.
David and I are moving past old hurts today. We are waiting for the curtain to rise on the final act of a miracle. His life in Iowa, capped by a 26 year imprisonment in a tiny apartment, is over. He is Columbus in a new world. Something many said could never happen is in fact materializing from the mist of what once was but a dream, David's Dream. Two years ago he could scarcely imagine seeing the Pacific Ocean and the Castro District of his beloved “SanFra”. Now he is preparing for a new beginning at Acorn Apartments in Oakland.
We had doubts, doubts that were encouraged my some, thankfully, they were not reality. Acorn has approved the application for David's new apartment. Oakland Housing Authority will come to inspect it on April 25. After that we sign the lease. Ten days from now, David should be moving into his new home.
I sip my coffee and remember the journey. If you think only of David's living arrangements (the same tiny apartment for 26 years) or allow yourself to be distracted by his clothes (hand me downs and Goodwill) you might conclude that he is “challenged” in some way. You would be wrong. Since meeting him seven years ago I have been constantly entertained by his surprising wit. We'll be driving along the highway or I'll be listening to him growl his way through a meal and suddenly he will spout out an observation worthy of a poet, stand up comedian or philosopher. Some of my favorites...
The hills of California - “These hills are fuzzy. Soft. Made of velvet.”
California's wild array of vegetation - “Those plants are whimsical. Some of them look like tribbles.”
Passing through Pottawatmie county in Iowa - “This is the home of the Pottawatmies. They are 99.9% fur. They are very sought after because they don't exist.”
After buying a new map - “You know, if you turn it sideways,Iowa looks a lot like a hot water bottle. The east is the top and the west is the bottom. Nevada looks like one of the cases a new microscope comes in. California is a wine flask.”
Crossing the Missouri and leaving Iowa - “Iowa is like an old mattress – comfy, but tired and worn out.”
Driving across the high plains he noticed sedimentary layers of the cliffs - “We are driving across an ocean without getting wet.”
One of the greatest sources of amazement for David is California's flora and fauna. “I will have to get an entire new 'degree' in biology. There are so many new creatures in my new lake (his name for the Pacific) that I cannot name them all.”
David also has a temper. Honed by years of frustration and fear he can burst out in rage. Yesterday we stopped for an emergency piss break. David charged into a restaurant and was turned away. He was hopping mad when he returned to the car.
“That damn lady let me walk all the way to back into her restaurant before she told me, 'Only customers can use the bathroom.' I really had to pee damn it!”
But David's anger never lasts. He is soon overcome with remorse and fear that he has offended or hurt someone. Beneath the crustiness, baked into him by fear, lies an ocean of compassion.
Two days ago, he came to the door of my room, sobbing so hard I thought he would suffocate. He had just heard that Linda, a friend of many decades, has cancer. I heard a lifetime of pain in his crying. I was struck dumb. I could only sit silently as he poured out grief beyond measure. I finally spoke.
“Maybe Linda would be happy for you today. Remember, you are starting a new life.”
I felt like I worked for Hallmark, but David seemed to appreciate the offer of consolation.
“Thank you,” he said. “You know Dale, a few years ago, after my stroke, I felt like giving up. Then you took me to California and Barry showed me the Pacific.”
Embarrassed, I said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Thank you, Dale.” he said again as he left for his room.
I stared out the door at the broken fountain gurgling in the courtyard of our mouldering motel.
“No David,” I said. “Thank you.”