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.