I am going to deviate from the normal business-related themes that are typically covered in this space. I hope you’ll forgive the digression; rest assured there are plenty of legislative, workforce, economic, and housing-related topics to opine on in the future.
This week, I want to share the story of someone who taught me that it is cool to be kind. Specifically, the story is about my longtime friend Andy, who we recently lost after he suffered a stroke. We’ve all lost people. I get it; I’ve lost people too. It’s never easy.
But Andy was different. Andy was filled with optimism and kindness that others could only admire and hope to mirror in their own lives. Andy taught me more than anyone I’ve ever met about loyalty, friendship, and kindness.
That’s not hyperbole; it’s a fact. His spirit was authentic and honest. And he was stubborn, impulsive, and had some major tantrums. Andy had Down Syndrome, and he was an inspiration and a hero.
(For those who don’t know, Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a condition, not a disease.)
Andy was my neighbor growing up. He was a few years older than me, but we graduated high school together even though we went to different schools. Andy never missed an opportunity to tease me about his school being better than mine, and never forgot the soccer, basketball, or football rivalry games. He was amazingly proud of the class of ‘93. Andy had loyalty to his school through wins or losses, in good times or bad.
Andy loved his school, but he loved his friends even more. We’d call or text, and as I lost connection to my hometown as one tends to do, he’d reach out to ask about my high school friends. “How are Steve and Hayden? Do you remember your girlfriend? She was so pretty, dude.” As time when on, he’d increasingly call me less and Stacey (my spouse) more – he was a ladies’ man and would talk to her while giving me nothing more than a quick hello. Andy understood more about friendship than I might ever know. And he’d rather talk to the pretty girl than the guy he knew forever. Andy was a smart guy.
One last quick story about Andy and his loyalty. When my brother was murdered, Andy hugged me and said, “if I ever see the guy that did it, I’m gonna strangle him”. He might have added a few colorful curse words (he taught me some new ones that day), but only Andy dared to share the thought that everyone else was thinking. Andy knew how to be a friend. Andy was selfless in that way.
Make no mistake, this isn’t reminiscing about just the good things. Andy could be a royal pain in the backside. His tics & bad habits were legendary; that boy spit and cursed like no one’s business. But despite his stubbornness and challenges his heart was always pure. His care and kindness toward everyone lucky enough to know him were palpable and admirable. Andy had an eternal sense of optimism, and at the same time was an amazingly frustrating person to spend time with.
Andy was my buddy. I’m going to miss him more than I can express. I’m a better person for having Andy in my life and I’ll be forever grateful for the life lessons he taught me. Rest in peace, buddy. I’m going to miss you.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com