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Sunday, October 26, 2008

David...


I went to go see high school football at Kamehameha Schools. Koa's school was playing against Elliott's school. So we sat in the middle. It was really raining hard off and on. I hadn't realized that you can bring an umbrella because I was used to Aloha Stadium's no-umbrella rule and hadn't been to many football games. So when it really started pouring down, many other people popped open their umbrellas. Others, like us, sat and got soaked. I felt foolishly unprepared. Being so early in the game, I knew that we had a long wet night ahead of us so I decided to walk down to the car and get an umbrella from the trunk. The car was very far away as we had parked in the lower school and caught the shuttle bus up to the stadium. I expected a half-hour journey to get the umbrella.

I headed off by myself leaving the family behind in the bleachers huddled under jackets. When I was about a quarter of the way to my car, I came down a flight of outside stairs and noticed a man standing alone, bending over, fidgeting through a small bag. As I passed him, I didn't make eye contact but just said, "How you doing?" as I continued by. The rain was still coming down hard and I was soaked already. As I walked down the road, I heard the man say something to me. I stopped and looked back. He said something to me again but I couldn't really hear him. So I walked back up the road towards him and said, "Excuse me?" He said, "Can you take me home?" Having heard him, but being slightly puzzled, I again said, "I'm sorry, what did you say?" to buy me some time to digest his unusual request. He again said, "Can you please take me home?" and in the dim street lights, I could see his face. He had Down's Syndrome and looked relatively young. I immediately let down my guard and engaged him in conversation.

I asked him where he lived. He said Waipahu, which wasn't far, but not close either. I looked at him closer and he was wearing a hat and shirt which indicated he was part of the coaching team for the private school playing against Kamehameha. At least a booster supporter. He had a clipboard with various notations, diagrams and football play jargon. On the top, it was written in bold letters, "Go to sleep." He said, "When it rains, I get sick. I have to go home."

I asked him how he got up to the school. Communication between us was a little slow with me having to repeat my questions several times in some instances. He said he caught the bus and someone gave him a ride up the hill to the game. Knowing my car was still very far away and it was still raining hard, I suggested to him that he stay right where he was, under the road overpass, while I went down to get the car. He didn't seem to understand me and looked perplexed. He then asked me to take him home. I said,"Why don't you wait here for me, and I'll go down and get my car and then come back. Then we can go back up to the game and I'll find my family and we'll figure out how to get you home." He looked at the ground, and then back up at me and said, "I'll come with you to your car." I said it would be better if he waited because it is pretty far, but I'll come back for him." He then looked at the ground and started to softly cry. It broke my heart. I said, "Okay, that sounds good. Let's both go get my car." The idea of him standing alone, in the dark, on the side of the road, didn't sit well with me anyway.

We started walking and the rain had let up some to a light drizzle. I was soaked already so it didn't matter for me. I was more concerned for him because he was relatively dry still. We were walking alongside the cars parked on the lower campus road. Treading between the bushes and vehicles in a concrete swale. I didn't get very far down the road when it started to rain again. I looked back and my friend was moving very slowly, hobbling down the swale, cautiously walking step after careful step. I realized at the rate we were going, it would be an hour by the time I got back up to the game and my poor soaked waiting family. It seemed like he was having trouble seeing in the dark as he strained to look down at his feet, step by step. I tried to recall whether poor eyesight was symptomatic of Down's Syndrome.

I walked back up the road and suggested that my friend wait up by the stairs and let me go get the car since it would be much faster. He dropped his head down again, and then looked up at me and said, "I want to go with you." At that point, I resigned myself to a long night of hobbling down the road to get an umbrella which probably would be meaningless at that point because we were all soaked to the bone in the persistent rain. I held out my hand and said, "My name is Kai." He shook my hand and said his name was David. I asked him how long he had been helping out the private school football team. He said for a long time. We made small talk as we slowly, and I mean slowly, walked down the dark road. Everytime a car approached, I had to hold on to David and pull him aside to stop so he wouldn't inadvertently wander into the path of the car in the dark amidst the blinding headlights.

Just when it started to rain hard again, and I was spiritually asking Ke Ali'i Pauahi for some guidance in an increasingly forlorn situation, a Kamehameha Security van pulled up alongside. Luckily, it was my friend, Clark. I was never so happy to see his big smile. He jokingly said, "What? Leaving the game already?" I laughed and then introduced him to David. I said I found David standing along the roadway in the dark trying to get home. Clark asked where David lived. I said Waipahu. Clark thought for awhile and then said that they couldn't drive the security vans beyond the Bus Terminal down below the school. I asked if he could give us a ride to my car to grab my umbrella. He said sure. David and I climbed in. I felt good knowing that even Clark momentarily thought about driving David all the way to his home in Waipahu. I would have driven him right home with no hesitation as well if I had been alone and didn't have my family waiting topside for me at the game. In the rain nonetheless. I don't know what I would have done had Clark not driven by. It was wrenching making decisions between the needs of my family and the needs of David.

We made it to lower campus and I jumped out and grabbed my large umbrella from the trunk. I than asked Clark if he could take us back up to the stadium. He said "Of course." Clark and I made small talk on the way up about mutual friends while David sat silently. I was never so happy to see the school stadium when we arrived. I got out of the van and thanked Clark. David sat quiety in the van. I said, "Come on David, we gotta go find my family and get you home." He said, "He is going to take me home," referring to Clark. Clark looked at me puzzled. I said, "No David. I'm going to get you home so come with me. " David climbed out of the van and we walked over the large set of stairs leading down to the football game. It started to rain again and David looked up pensively at me and said, "I get sick when it rains." He looked like he was going to cry again. I gave him my big umbrella and said, "David. You wait here at the top of the stairs. Don't move. I'm going to get my family. I will return for you." David looked up at me from under the umbrella apprehensively. I looked him right in the eye and said, "I will return for you." I felt like Daniel Day Lewis in the Last of the Mohicans as an imaginary dramatic movie score filled my head and chuckled to myself as I fled down the wet stairs anxious to find my family and trying not to slip and fall on my butt.

I found my family amidst the throngs of spectators and explained my extended absence. I then found a policeman and explained to him the situation with David and my belief that he needed assistance at this point. I initially wanted to approach the private school coaching staff and let them know that their number one booster needed assistance getting home but I decided not to because I was pretty upset at his predictament and the seeming lack of care or concern afforded to him as part of the football family. I may have ended up regretting the things I may have said in that rain soaked emotional mindset.

The policeman, a Sergeant, couldn't do too much because he was hired as a special duty officer for the game, but he did talk with David when I led him back up the stairs to where David was still waiting huddled under my umbrella. After some conversation, the officer called another officer to come up on campus and they decided to give David a ride down to the busline which could take him home to Waipahu because he seemed to know where to get off to get to the home of his caretakers.

I stood under the umbrella with David while waiting for the police car to arrive. David needed to sit down because his foot was hurt. I realized why he was so slow hobbling down the road swale when we met earlier. I felt bad not knowing he had apparently injured his foot at some point. We talked and he would intermittently ask what the score of the game was at that point. I really didn't know because, like him, I had missed most of the game. Despite his predictament and foot pain, he showed his love for the game with his continued excitement and interest in the score.

At one point, as we stood under the umbrella when he stood back up. He put his arm around my waist. I put my arm around him. I could feel him shivering a little as we were both soaked. I kissed the top of his head and said, "I love you David." He squeezed me and put his head against my chest and said, "I love you Kai." He seemed to calm down. I did too.

The officer arrived after about twenty minutes and I helped David get in the patrol car. We decided to leave the game already even before half-time. I was soaked and a little upset at how David could end up by himself trying to get home on such a horrid dark rainy night and no one seemingly took it upon themself to take care of their number one booster, to ensure he has a safe way home. David, the one who catches the bus to attend the games and help out with his loving spirit.

As we were getting in our car down below, we heard the sudden loud sounds of the stadium erupting in cheer above us on the hill. I knew someone had scored in the previously zero-zero game. And sure enough. It was Kamehameha, who went on to victory that night against a formidable team who had just come off a victory themselves over St. Louis, the local football powerhouse. We actually drove up and down several of the main thoroughfares in Kalihi looking at all the busstops to see if David had caught his bus home. He was nowhere to be found. I had a suspicion that the officer may have just driven David home since it probably wouldn't have taken that long on the freeway. Still, my whole family felt a little apprehensive as we peered through the rainy car windows scouring the bustops for any sign of our football friend. We finally headed home.

I knew why the other team lost. It was simple. You fail to recognize the pure loving spirit of your biggest football fan. Your giving booster. And leave him to languish in the dark trying desperately to get home. And you probably think of him as the less fortunate soul in this world, short-changed by Ke Akua's blessings in this life. Little do you realize that he is the one who always speaks the truth. Who gives wholly of himself without expectation of return. Who receives fulfillment from the simple joy of pure sportsmanship. Who loves openly. And who just wants to find a way home when it rains. And we think of him as less fortunate. God's special chosen child. No. It is we who are the less fortunate in life...

Thank you David for making my rainy football game exceptional. And I know when you said, "I love you Kai." It came from that rarest of purest places in the world. The honest heart of God's special child. And that means the world to me...

4 comments:

Lance Michael Foster said...

This is a beautiful, beautiful story, brother. I have traveled far and wide, and never have met another heart of gold like yours. You family, all of them, are blessed to have you in their lives.

Ka`iana said...

Mahalo my brother...a heart of gold...hmmmm...that must be why I always have such a heavy, heavy heart...

penny said...

Thank you for not doing what so many people would have done and walking away as David was not your responsability. It's wonderful to know that there are caring souls like you who would help our youngsters.

I say this as someone who has worked with people with Down's Syndrome for 18 years and as the mum of a little boy with DS who sadly didn't live long enough to be out own his own but I'm heartened to think that someone like you woud have looked after him if he had.

Ka`iana said...

Aloha Penny! I would like to think that most people would help David or anyone else needing a little help. Maybe I am too optimistic with my naivety but I think many people in Hawai'i share the Aloha spirit and care for each other like family.

It sounds like you have a beautiful spirit for all your work with these special people among us. I am so truly sorry for your personal loss. I would have loved to meet your son and I bet you are very proud of him. He must be with God now watching over all of us and equally proud of you. I can hardly wait to meet him! Take care beautiful mother (mum) and thanks for visiting...kai