A little over two years ago, one of my good friends was in an accident. Caitlin was riding her bike late at night and was hit by a black livery. She was pulled under the car and the worst of her injuries was a large burn she received from being pressed against the car’s radiator. She spent about six weeks in the hospital and needed two rounds of skin grafting to repair her shoulder and arm from the burn.
Her recovery was inspirational to me. Watching her rebound from this intense trauma in such an intentional way felt healing to me. Even though I was just watching from the sidelines, attempting support through phone calls and cupcakes, I felt like her story affected me in a profound way.
My friend is also a painter. Caitlin’s work is hanging in various galleries across the country. She’s spent time working as an artist-in-residence at a high end resort in the Caribbean. The city of New York hired her to paint a large mural in the financial district. In a field that is very, very hard to break into, she’s made many impressive gains.
Then, sometime last fall, she started to paint Isaac.
She says that she feels connected to Isaac. She says that even though her body is mostly healed from the accident, she knows that experience is something that will always be with her. She’ll always have been in this accident. And she sees ways that it holds her back, but she also sees ways that it has given her life a lot of beauty. She tells me that she sees the same kinds of patterns with Isaac and his autism. There are definitely ways that Isaac’s autism holds him back, but there are also many ways that it gives his life a lot of beauty. And ultimately it’s a universal theme. The things that hold you back aren’t all bad. They are usually more complex than that.
She’s painted him about three or four times now. He’s hanging in a gallery in the Caribbean. He was entered in a contest in London. He’s in progress in her studio in Brooklyn. And now, he’s hanging in our dining room.
For Isaac’s birthday, Caitlin gave him a small portrait. It about 3×5 and it’s incredibly detailed. I think he looks older in this painting, about 8. And when I told her that she said, “well, we’ll see if I’m right.” When he unwrapped it, he knew right away it was him. And when we hung it, he kept trying to take it down to look at it, so we had it hang it higher. :)
Today is Isaac’s actual birthday. He’s 4 years old. And today I feel so, so grateful. Grateful for family and friends that see him as he is and loves, loves, loves him for it. Grateful for these moving stories that unfold as we set about to just live our lives. And very, very grateful for Isaac.
Isaac, you’ve changed everything. And I am so glad.