Nothing puts things into perspective like a handicapped kid.
I would have guessed this boy was about 14. He wore a blue parka and was talking to his mother. Well, actually, he didn’t really talk as much as he groaned his words, the way deaf people do who try to speak. He held his arms close to his body with his elbows and wrists bent at acute angles, as if they were broken. With black-rimmed glasses, white tennis shoes and jeans from someplace like Sears or Montgomery Ward, he stood with his weight on one leg.
I was drinking a hot chocolate and stopped at a rain-splattered park bench and watched this mother and son. They were beautiful, facing each other under the battleship gray sky.
The boy mumbled loudly.
His mom nodded.
He mumbled some more.
His mom said something—I don’t know what—but whatever it was, it was said lovingly, protectively.
They both turned and walked by me.
Why was this boy born this way and not me?
Suddenly, things I took for granted in life glittered with value and roared into my thoughts like surf. I forgot about those monthly bills I can barely keep up with and remembered that I haven’t called my sisters in a while. I forgot about the dog food I had to buy on my way home that night and remembered that I hadn’t told someone how wonderful she is.
Life is never so pure and simple as it is after encountering someone who, by chance, inherited a mutated gene. The boy in the parka must have drawn the short straw when they were handing out DNA sequences.
The boy in the parka will never have the chance to talk back to a teacher and whimper in detention, score 12 points in a row in a basketball game, work a summer job climbing ladders, buy his first car and accuse his mechanic of ripping him off.
If he could step out of his handicapped body and brain for just a moment, what would he tell us normal folks about how we should live our lives in the brief time we have left?
I drank down my hot chocolate and resumed my walk back to work. By the time I got there, the rain was falling and I was wet. I had my phone out to call someone and tell her how wonderful she is. But I had to get to work, and figured I’d call later, which I didn’t do.
So quickly I had forgotten about the boy in the parka, and I guess life wasn’t so clear anymore.