I’ve seen them numerous times on my weekend jogs at our neighborhood park. I’ve seen fathers and sons out together before, bonding in all the different ways a father and son can, but these two are different
The father must be close to 70 years old. He is balding, with a ring of white hair around his head. He always wears a short-sleeved button shirt, a lungi and sandals. He has bowed legs yet manages to keep a decent pace. He is in good shape for someone his age.
The son is tall and walks very straight. I put his age around 40. Except for a pot belly, he is not overweight. He always wears the same thing: a checkered, short-sleeved button shirt and navy blue pants that are frayed at the bottom. He walks at a slow pace, sort of lumbering along in his bare feet.
But there is something else about the son. He has a disability of some sort. I can’t tell what it is, though it seems to be mental. He spends his whole walk calling to his father: “Papa, papa”. Should his father get out of sight, he calls louder “Papa, papa”. Since the father walks faster than the son, he can get far ahead and out of sight often, but as soon as he is close again, he always acknowledges his son.
Today I noticed them as I was leaving. They were passing where I was sitting in the playground and the son called loudly “Papa” while gesturing to the benches. His father gave a reply that I took to mean he wanted him to walk one more round. It wasn’t in English so I won’t swear to that meaning but it made sense to me.
What really gets me is how much this father loves his son. Obviously the son has stayed with his parents his whole life; he is still a child mentally and needs care. Imagine the dedication of the parents! Most of us can’t wait for our kids to grow up and move out, but they have, knowingly and willingly, given their whole lives to the care of their son. That is unselfishness at its best!
I’ve tried to imagine how I would act if one of my children were disabled in this way. Would I really be unselfish enough to dedicate my whole life until my dying day to my child? Would I be able to endure year after year, knowing my child would never leave home, never be self-sufficient, never be able to reach a point where they would care for me in my old age? I hope I would.
Posted by Mercy Langille on July 22, 2012
Nothing really prepares you for seeing your child for the first time. I had been asked to sit in the waiting room while my wife labored alone in the women-only labor room. At some point she had begged for me and her doctor let me in.
I held her hand and tried to imagine what a contraction felt like. Her face contorted into a grimace of pain as she squeezed my hand harder than I thought was possible. Then I was asked to leave.
“Sir, wake up, see your baby.”
I was tired and groggy, having been in the hospital for hours, waiting to see what was going to happen. When it was decided that my wife would need a caesarean after all, I sat in the waiting room and fell asleep.
“Hey, wake up, your baby is here.” The guy next to me grinned as he pointed to the nurse standing in front of me.
The nurse was holding a tiny, screaming bundle. “Sir, this is your daughter.”
I took the baby in my arms and her screams quieted to sobs as I spoke to her. Her red face turned pink and her ears perked up as she listened to my voice. That was all it took to quiet her. I held her close and took her to our room so she could be dressed. Then I took some pictures.
I was now daddy to a little girl. I tried hard to digest that information. Just hours earlier I only had a son; now I had a daughter too. She was perfect. She could have anything she wanted, just because she was mine. I would give her the world if she asked. Her large brown eyes stared into mine as if to say “I’m so happy you’re my daddy.”
This memoir piece is pretty much how my husband remembers the birth of our first daughter, Lila., and was written for Write on Edge‘s meme Red Writing Hood.
Posted by Mercy Langille on June 1, 2012
Every morning the same view greets me. I wake to see beige walls that have needed painting ever since my kids decided to use them as a canvas for crayon art. A high shelf, full of books that I struggle to find time to read, stares down at me. The large orange and tan crib is stained with dirt that won’t come off no matter how many times I try to wash it. It has been chewed by all three of my babies, touched by three pairs of tiny hands, each for a longer time than the last.
The air conditioner hums as it has all night; the fan is spinning as well. The brown wooden cupboard in the corner is neatly packed with clothes. Three sets of windows ensure the room is never completely dark. Two sets are at the top of opposite walls near the ceiling – one facing the outdoors, the other our living room. Why a window was placed there I’ll never know. The other window is at a normal level and is where the air conditioner is connected.
I also wake up to three more bodies in my bed; tiny bodies that weren’t there when I went to sleep. Each has found their way to a small nook and is sleeping in a favorite position. While I may feel rather squished, it is also comforting – all my kids are in bed with me and I know they are safe.
Posted by Mercy Langille on May 25, 2012