A restroom confessional-“His name is Billy Damn-it!”
I was heading into the restroom at the campground where we were staying and almost ran into a young man standing just inside the door. My initial reaction was one of surprise but then I recognized him. He and his mother had walked past our campsite earlier in the day and we had exchanged waves and smiles. I knew from that sweet face and the child-like innocence that he had Down syndrome and I got a big lump in my throat. My older brother Darrell was born with Down syndrome, so I have always had a soft spot in my heart for these special humans. I assumed then that he was waiting on his mom.
I went on into a stall, just as a rather large lady came into the bathroom. She may have also recognized that he was special since she didn’t seem too concerned about a man/boy being inside the ladies room.
“What is your name?” I heard her ask him in a particularly loud voice. “Billy”. He slowly answered her.
“Petey?” She queried. “Well, Petey, where’s your mom?”
“Billy” he again said softly.
At that moment I heard a toilet flush and his Mom came out. The new lady struck up a conversation with her about second generation, nobody-gives-a-crap stuff and Billy’s mom must be one of those kind souls, just staring at her blabbering mouth, while I was thinking to myself “Just shut the 7*!!^% up lady or at least pause, take a breath or maybe just ask a question.” Since I knew that they were blocking my exit, I just kept waiting and listening inside my 6×4 confessional. The loud lady’s kids were apparently driving her crazy. Her two girls were in the shower and because they couldn’t do anything on their own, she had brought them the towels that they had forgotten. She started down a meandering road of voice vomit that included small chunks of people, places and random bolstering words of things no one under this roof had any idea about. She referred to “Petey” a few more times and I heard Billy’s mom try to correct her but she couldn’t get a word in. Finally, the lady asked how old Petey was and his mother softly said in a very nice but a little sterner tone, “Billy, is 28 years old.”
The lady then said something else about getting the towels to the girls, a random sentence or two about her drunk uncle, car problems and something else I can’t remember and then turned to leave. Over her shoulder, I heard her yell, “Nice to meet you, Petey”.
In unison, Billy, his mom and ME, from the bathroom stall, yelled. “BILLY!” and under my breath I followed that with, “His name is Billy, damn-it!”
My brother Darrell lived to be 46 years old. Even though he was 8 years older than I, we were extremely close. He started out as my big brother, then as I grew up, his mind stayed young, and somehow he became my little brother. He was the heart of our family and we loved him so much. He lived with my parents until his death and there was a big empty hole in our live’s when he left us. Darrell never met a stranger and he loved everyone unconditionally. And even though his mind stayed young, I think he had more love in his heart than anyone I have ever known.
This spring my sweet brother would have been 61 years old and I cannot believe that it’s been more than 15 years since I hugged him or laughed with him. I felt compelled to mention this today to perhaps remind us to always be kind to those that we don’t understand. Always smile at someone with a disability and know that even though they may not be the same as us, they have a purpose that we may never truly understand … oh and when anyone introduces themselves to you and says their name, stop thinking about what your next words will be. Instead, LISTEN and pause for a just a moment and try to warmly embrace this gift you have received of a smile, a name and the sound of someone simply saying hello. In the silence is when we notice……….