Sunday, May 25, 2008


Roy lived the last fifteen years of his life in a studio apartment downtown. It was a clean, well maintained building on the bus line, a building with twenty-four hour security. He attended a senior citizen’s day program most days; at night he enjoyed watching sports and news programming. He had several friends with whom he corresponded by mail; he was well liked by his neighbors. When he was younger, he’d worked at a racetrack. He lived an ordinary life.

I worked in Roy’s apartment building the last four years of his life. I noticed a few things about him, the way he stood, swaying, leaning so far back he seemed always on the verge of falling over, the way he walked, his head turned down and to one side. He had an intense stare, but this was not intimidating, as he tended to direct it near, but not at the eyes of the person he was speaking with. He wore the same style of shirt every day.

Roy and I had some things in common, deeply entrenched patterns for navigating our days, and a love for drawing and coloring with crayons. Unlike most of his neighbors in the building, he took rules seriously, never leaving the community room without a lid covering his coffee, emptying his garbage daily, whether there was anything in it or not. Not once did anyone complain that his television was too loud.

Roy was a great source of information, often arriving at my office or the community area to report the latest news of catastrophic weather around the globe or to inform me of the latest career move of one of his favorite news anchors. His talk was more a series of announcements than conversation. These visits were always the highlight of my work shift.

Roy didn’t cook. He was more than willing to try it, but his sisters felt sure he would be both safer and healthier if he got some help with that. They made arrangements with a local cafeteria owner to bring him hot meals each day. On the weekends, his sisters picked up his laundry, and took him shopping or to their house or a park or the farmer’s market. Ordinary stuff.

I never asked Roy or any of his family if he had an autism diagnosis. I suspect he didn’t, and it really doesn’t matter. I don’t think his neighbors thought of him as especially different. Someone would check up on him when his family was out of town, but the same is true for many of the building’s other residents. He fit in there.

Each Mother’s Day, Roy explained to me, using the same words, that his mother had passed away. He carried her portrait with him to Mother’s Day Mass at the church he attended weekly.

Some time before he died, Roy’s doctor informed him that he had a few months left to live. The doctor took his time explaining, making sure Roy understood. He asked if Roy had any questions. He thought for a minute. He did have one. “What do you think about that new airplane?” he asked. “I heard it’s as big as two football fields.”

Roy died Thursday morning, May 22, 2008. He was 79 years old. He was my friend, and I will miss him.


  1. Thinking of him---thank you for sharing about his life.

  2. What a sweet tribute to a very special friend.

  3. This is a beautiful tribute. You draw a wonderful picture of him.

  4. Sorry for your loss, Bev. That was a beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I commented on her and my comment has not appeared. I hope this was a technica problem ad not because I offended you in some way. I did not intend to cause any offense. I'm sorry if my previous comment on this post offended you because it mentioned prayer. It was not an attempt to force religion on you.

    I'm sorry for your loss. I am glad Ro had such a long, happy life. I want the same happiness and acceptance for everyone in the world, autistic or not. *hugs*

  6. Your friend Roy reminds me of a few people that aren't here anymore. They've gone over the horizon; Sanfrid C was one of them.


  7. sanabitur_anima_mea,

    I'm sorry I can not find your comment. I did not delete it, and am sure I would not have found it offensive. Thank you for visiting and for your comment here.

  8. I can only assume it was some kind of technical problem, then. Thaks for letting m know.


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