Ida, a Perpetually Happy Seven-Year-Old


Previewed by Jack Smith

This is a preview of a yet unwritten book about niece, Ida, who has a mental health disability. The doctors never quite said what went wrong or made a proper diagnosis, suffice it to say that Ida is a perpetually happy seven-year-old. Although she has limitations, she is a virtual “Rain Man,” she remembers everyone’s name and birthdate that she has ever met.

My sister has a vacation house in Virginia Beach and Ida loves to spend summers there. Her favorite thing to do is to go to the scary “fun house“ which is in a very sketchy part of town, home to bikers and sailors. If I am in town, I always accompany the girls on these adventures. Sure enough, as we walked towards the “fun house“ we were approached by the meanest looking tattooed, bare-chested, 300 lb. biker that I have ever seen. As he got closer, I instinctively pulled the girls tighter to me and as we passed Ida said, “What’s happening Charlie?” I was too stunned to remember his response.

Another favorite Ida story comes from a daycare facility for children with disabilities. Most of the children were in wheelchairs and resented Ida, who is ambulatory. When they would encircle Ida and threaten her, Ida’s response was to get behind their wheelchairs, roll them to the elevator and send the offending child to the basement.

My other sister once took Ida to the neighborhood market. At the checkout, my sister spoke to a lady she knew from church and Ida looked at the lady and said “you expelled gas.“ My sister will not let her use the F-word. This was twenty years ago, and the lady has never spoken again to my sister.

Ida now lives at a school in Kentucky that was created for her and several hundred of her best friends. She loves the school and is a cheerleader, performs in plays, and is in the “Bell Ringing Choir.” Ida is sensitive to loud noises and the school bully likes to sneak up and make loud noises. Last week my sister got a call from a detective with the child abuse agency in Kentucky. Someone had called and stated that a student was being abused at the school and that he was required, by law, to investigate. When asked who filed the complaint, she was told that the first name was Ida.

Like the original “Rain man,” Ida has an unbelievable capacity for numbers, and for some reason, my sister will never let me take her on a vacation to Las Vegas.