Hard Things

These are things I have seen only from a taxi window, and from a taxi window there is not a lot to do- I usually haven’t even processed it until we’ve passed.   I see bits and pieces separately and as we are driving off, I realize the bigger picture of what I have seen.  It doesn’t help me, in my delated processing, to know that the fact that I am in a cab marks me very much as one of the haves (it’s about ten times more than a bike ride).

A boy, maybe ten, wearing nothing by a dirty t-shirt and dingy grey underwear, skinny, being dragged awkwardly down the street by the hand by his dad (I think, an older man).  The boy is slack jawed. His gait is awkward, off, but familiar.  As we turn the corner I realize he walks like the Cherub, and that empty gaze and uneven gallomping gait is probably the stare and gait of somebody with mild cerebral palsy and more than mild brain damage.  I don’t know where they are going, but I know I probably look like this sometimes when I am in a hurry and the Cherub is most decidedly not.

Another child, this time with an older woman, a grandmother. The child comes up to the grandmother’s shoulder.  Lola (the grandmother) has a bag of produce. She’s a quarter of the way across the street, but stops to adjust something- she has a long, wide piece of rubber. Maybe it’s cut from a bicycle tube?  She wraps it around the child’s chest, beneath the armpits, and there’s something else attached to the front- not a leash, maybe another strip of rubber. I am focuses on the strips of rubber, trying to figure out what that is all about.  Our cab is stopped in a line of traffic.  Slowly, the woman comes along between our cab and the one in front of us, she is now pulling the child behind her with that strip of rubber.  She is peering inside the windows of the vehicles all around us- face up to the glass peering.

I’ve been talking to my son, who is in the back seat of the cab with me.  He stopped talking first to watch her, and then I also turn and watch as she gets to our cab, presses her face to the glass, taps on it- and then all at the same time, so I can’t process them until it’s too late, she holds up her hand to the window, cupped; the light turns green and the cab starts driving, and I realize, again, that the child with the rubber tube around his or her chest is also like our Cherub, the gaze is flat and disengaged, blank. The gait is a bit… off.  The child is wearing a t-shirt, and grey, dingy underwear, but no pants,  and we have already turned the corner and they are out of sight when I realize this is a grandmother with a very disabled child she is caring for and she was begging, and the rubber belt is the best way she knows to make it possible to walk to the market and buy food and come home again with the child.  It’s gentler than a rope. It keeps the child from getting lost, falling behind, even helps with balance (these roads are *so* uneven). It allows the grandmother one hand free for food, and one hand free to gather some funds for their next meal, hence the cupped hand tapping at our tinted taxi window.

 

But no pants?   And as I am thinking about it, this makes perfect sense, and demanding that these parents put pants on their severely developmentally delayed children would be arrogantly imposing a major hardship on them. Clothes have to be handwashed and always line dried. Some people do not even have a line- there’s a hut on the way to church where I see clothes spread over the bushes outside to dry. I have also seen them draped over fences, hanging from the window grating of second story windows.

 


But at any rate, if you have to put pants on an incontinent adolescent or adult who is so disabled he knows no shame anyway, you are demanding that these people spend hours every day doing nothing but hand washing and hanging out soiled clothes- and they cannot do that.  They cannot afford diapers or pullups- it costs nearly two days basic wages (three for somebody doing menial work like a maid) for one package which lasts a week if things are going well and you get them to the toilet often enough, and these parents that I see often have no job but begging- older women often.

They probably don’t own that many changes of clothes, either.  I don’t even know that they have a house.  I’ve seen piles of clothes in the bushes with a lean-to…

I think I need to start putting coins in an accessible pocket before I go anywhere.  And I have got to be more alert and better at putting pieces together.

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3 Comments

  1. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted June 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I would be in the same spot as you–it takes me a while to catch on. God bless your efforts to help out, even in a small way, those who have such hard things and so little resources to deal with them.

  2. selfanalyst
    Posted June 6, 2017 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Thought provoking post, appreciate the insight (and I can relate to the delayed realizations).

    Off topic, your Amazon links have disappeared from your right side bars (or I’m falling further into tech incompetence). Would like to buy things through your site if possible, do you know what I’m doing wrong?

    • Headmistress
      Posted June 7, 2017 at 5:26 am | Permalink

      I didn’t know they were gone. A recent post about putting together a curiosity box, has a lot of links to interesting things at Amazon, though.

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