July 2, 2005

this is my friend james smith. just looking at the photo makes me laugh. i decided this blog shouldn't just be about me, but also about some of the amazing people i've met in my life. the ones who aren't around anymore. this is james. he lived at the group home where i worked in columbus. we were friends for almost 4 years before he passed away. he wasn't actually mentally retarded. but he had spent his life in an institution and needed help with things. i met his sister once, at his funeral and she told me how he ended up in an institution.

he was born a "blue baby" (lack of oxygen) and had some health problems. his dad had passed away and his mom couldn't afford the doctor bills, so she gave him over to the state. he was in an institution from birth until he was in his 50's. when i came to the group home to work, he was about 60. and i was wild for him from the moment we met. he had a wicked sense of humor and was a total curmudgeon. he was stubborn as hell and very impatient. he would scream and curse at red lights and if dinner was late, he bitched. once he was so made when i told him he'd have to wait for dinner, he wrote a poem.

wait for the wagon/ wait for the duck/ wait for the monkey/ suck suck suck!!!

he said it off the top of his head and then stormed out of the room. everyone loved the old man. he was full of mischief. always playing jokes. and he loved to make everyone guess. i could spend an hour just trying to figure out what he had for dinner. "james, what did you eat for dinner?" "you know........" was the answer. he once, while waiting in traffic, asked me to explain what surgery was AND potpurri. when i tried to explain surgery, he told me to go to hell and that i was lying. when i explained potpurri, he giggled and said that a bowl of scented leaves and twigs was nuts. he also asked me to explain what retarded meant. that was tough.

his kidneys failed and he started dialysis, which is painful and tedious. but that last year of his life, he got to move into an apartment with 2 friends. for the first time in his entire life, he had his own bedroom. he picked out all the furniture, although i ended up helping with the decorative things. he just wanted to spend his money on baseball cards and junk food. that summer we went to cedar point. i convinced him to drive one of the old-timey cars. he didn't notice the bar on the ground, so i convinced him he was really driving. he screamed and cursed me the whole time, but then wanted to do it again. there were a group of little kids watching and laughing. they loved him and asked him to go around a 3rd time.

he was like an odd combination of a friend, mate and grandfather, and i loved him a great deal. i was so lucky to have known him, and when he died it felt like a little color in the world was gone. my friends and i decided that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, he should get to come back as a spoiled, pampered and loved child. he was a blast to hang out with and helped me with my college math homework. and now he's online! i like the idea of a little piece of james out here on the internet....

1 comment:

Chris said...

Rather than work this afternoon, or look for a job, or have regrets for the way my life is or should be, I'm going to think about people like James and wish them peace and eternal happiness wherever they happen to be now :)