|Picture: ROSA VERLOOP|
I sat in my room and remembered a young boy I once knew. I will call him Junior.
Junior was the first son of his parents. They had been blessed with four girls before Junior was born. Being African, his father didn’t feel like a man until he had his son.
I don’t know what it was like at his birth because I met Junior when he was about 4.
Junior was malformed. His head seemed too heavy for his tiny body, resulting in a permanent slouch when he sat; which was all he could do. His arms and legs were tiny and never seemed to catch up with the rest of his body as he grew. His eyes were bulgy and he had a drool most of the time. That was all most people saw. As a result, he was always on a chair or propped with pillows.
I saw a side to Junior that astounded me. He was veryintelligent! He could hold brilliant conversations, with only slight slurring of his words. He was like Stephen Hawking…without the futuristic wheelchair. He was also very respectful and courteous; a trait that gets me every time.
One day I stumbled upon his report cards and found he was the best student in his class. I expressed my amazement and his mum, full of pride and joy, told me that he had always been the top student in his class; excelling way above other regular students. This was my confirmation that Junior had the mind of a genius trapped in a malformed body. Somehow, I didn’t feel bad for him. I believed that his mind was the most important thing about him and I was proud to know him.
Soon enough, his mother was pregnant again. When she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Junior’s father was more than elated. He threw the biggest naming ceremony for his son and was merry for days. When it was his 1st birthday, oh my! You should have seen the fanfare!
When Junior was about 8 and his brother 3, I was witness to something that shocked the socks off me.
Junior’s dad returned from work that day and his second son ran to him with the enthusiasm that defined his childhood, screaming ‘Daddy Welcome!’ As soon he flew in the air for a hug, Junior’s father lifted him above his head and said, ‘Thank you my only son’.
I balked! Only son?! Only son?!
It was at that moment that I saw Junior crawling to welcome his father. He was within hearing distance of his father when those words were uttered. He froze where he was, child as he was, but understanding the full impact of those words. And like a child, he still said his welcomes…wishing….hoping….for that toss into the air and that acknowledgement. Junior’s father mumbled a response and went into his room.
My heart broke…just as I am sure Junior’s did.
He was malformed from birth, which was no fault of his. And that malformation led his father to reject him in the most hurtful of ways. For his father, his beautiful mind was not enough to overlook his mangled body.
I left the house. That was the last day I saw Junior. The next time I heard of him, it was about his burial. He had been 13 when he died.
I remember being sad and depressed at his painful life. I remembered his courtesy and his brilliance. I remembered how he always tried to help himself, in spite of his malformed body. I remembered his crooked smile that makes me think of the song by J.Cole. Best of all, I remembered his spirit.
I heard his father cried at the funeral. I heard the tears wouldn’t stop. But I couldn’t help but wonder; did he cry in sorrow because he had lost a son or did he cry in joy because he now, truly, had one son?