Not long ago, I was taking questions after a school performance of my solo play. I was asked, “What is your proudest personal moment?” I thought about it and replied, “Being able to witness the birth of my son.” There was a large general response of “Ahhh…” from the audience. Then a rapid succession of questions:
“What is your son’s name?”
“Abner David Harrell, IV” (poor kid)
“Does your son have a hand like yours?”
“No, my son was born with both his hands.”
“Are you happy your son will not have the same challenges as you because he has two hands?”
“Um….” I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. After some thought, I said, “My son will not have the same challenges I had but he will have challenges. Just like I’ve told you through my story, we all will face challenges and difficult circumstances but I hope that I can love him and council him to understand that no matter what challenge he faces, he is beautiful, unique and wonderful just the way he is.”My kid is pretty great, he is just learning to walk and on our recent trip to
My kid is pretty great! He is just learning to walk and on our recent trip to Australi, he also discovered the joys of playing in the water. There was a wonderful playground area near Darling Harbor in Sydney with a fun fountain play area. Davey LOVED it! We went once on a cloudy and rainy day, but on our last weekend, we went back on a perfect warm and sunny day. I was so excited for him to get back into those fountains. Of course, there were many more people at the playground on the nice and sunny day but I thought it would be good for Davey to play with other kids. We changed him into his swim diaper and turned him loose. I was there walking close by, keeping my eyes on him. He gathered with a few other kids near a fountain that burst up with flowing water. They all laughed as they ran from the towering water. Davey came toward me laughing and holding on to my leg for safety. I hear this question come from on top of this bolstering of laughter, “Eeew, what is that???”
I assumed one of the kids saw my hand and was pointing and asking what I’d heard thousands of times before in my lifetime. I started to answer, “It’s my hand, I was born without it” but before I said anything I saw the kid wasn’t pointing at me, he was pointing at my son. Davey has a small birthmark on his chest; it looks like a dark red gummy bear. “It’s just a birthmark” I replied. My son, unaware of any of this just smiled at the kid and ran back to the fountain.
It slayed me; I thought back to those thousands of questions about my hand, the stares, the pointing fingers – it was the first time my son had this experience. He was pointed at, just like me.
After a second I came back to the present moment, just in time for another water fountain explosion. Davey’s laugh filled my ears as he ran away from the water, rubbing his face in delight. He had moved on to more important matters like being a kid and having fun.
My father had a similar birthmark and it disappeared during his childhood. It will most likely be the same for my son. He may never know what that pointing finger feels like, what frustration comes when you are asked the same question over and over again about something that is just part of your body and who you are. I hope that for him but more importantly I hope I can teach him what he reminded me of in that moment – that when challenges arrive, and they certainly will, we cannot stay buried in our despair and frustration. We have to move on to the more important matters, like finding that next water fountain explosion to run under.