One Summer evening over twenty years ago. I was collecting washing from the clothesline. The sun was slowly setting. I was enjoying the quiet beauty of the evening when suddenly from behind the bushes, in the next door garden, a little boy all of four years old, appeared with a whoop as children do and gave me one hell of a fright. I screamed. He, not knowing what he had done, just stood there staring at me. I in turn stared back at him. He looked so vulnerable but inquisitive. Instead of scolding him I fell in love! “ What is your name? Where do you live?” I asked.
It was obvious from his replies that he had an intellectual disability but I learned that his name was Michael and that he lived in the house across the empty section next to mine. We talked. I told him what a fright he had given me and that was why I looked scared. I also told him that I liked him and would not be cross again. He replied, ‘I like you, too.‘
Over the next twenty years Michael was a regular visitor at my place especially at weekends. He would unload his worries and I would tell him about my busy working week. He listened. Whilst not understanding the content of my conversation he was quick to catch moods of sadness or happiness. Sometimes he would just sit and observe me doing household chores.
A few years ago I moved from this home. Michael was now in his twenties. We saw each other less regularly but did meet occasionally over lunch at my place. After lunch, remembering that I enjoyed a daily swim he would say
‘Marilyn are you going for your swim now? I shall escort you to the beach.’
And escort me he did. On these occasions I would arrive at the beach with a six foot, good looking male proudly holding my arm. Sadly Michael died suddenly last October. When his parents asked me to read at his funeral I considered it a privilege to do so. To my surprise the chosen reading was from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act 3, Scene 2 where Juliet is talking about her Romeo:
When he shall die
Take him and cut him in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun
And now starlit Summer nights always remind me of this very special friendship.