The Halt And The Lame

byLucky Garvin

There are trip wires in our days; some set to such a low tension that we don’t feel them snag our feet. Moths at the window pane.  Who notices?

But sometimes, they are of such compelling nature as to make us stand in pause, trying to figure out where Heaven ends and earth begins; or to wonder if there is a seam there at all.

The Creator arranged a rendezvous with me, I think.  Oh, not He and I; no, me and a young boy; maybe fourteen years old.

I sat writing fifteen years ago as he and his parents walked by; out for a stroll in the afternoon light. The youngster followed, somewhat behind.  He had an awkward gait and carriage.

Cerebral palsy.

I strained to see his face.  Our eyes met through the window.  It was there…the sadness. No gleam of a defiant outcast. It was the high and lonesome song of not belonging; a look which tore at my heart. He lives outside consensus.  He is different; being different is perilous, for we have let reason escape, you see.  We judge by what is similar or acceptable to us.

He is not.  I saw it in his face.

I must occasionally play a small part getting sons Chester and Cailan back on track when they have been outcast for some minor infraction of the civil code of teenagers.  As a physician, I am not frequently looked down on; on the whole, I am `cool’. [For an old guy.]  I have forgotten how it feels not to be.  But, the look on this youngster’s face reminded me.

Cailan and Chester are only temporarily out of step with their contemporaries; the right clothes, the right haircut or music; or arranging to have them seen hanging out with older [and therefore certifiably `cool’] young people; these remedies provide a quick fix to short-lived interpersonal disharmonies.

But this young man, for no reason he has control over, has fallen from grace; that grace which permits us to be taken on our own merits.  He is in a permanent state of exile; no matter what he does he will never be cool, at least in the eyes of those still immature enough to risk such reckonings.  Because you move funny, young sir, you have been dismissed.

When he yields to the soft nursing of sleep, I wonder what he dreams of?  Running smoothly? Speaking plainly?  Smile at a winsome young lass… and have her smile back? What places does he visit in his dreams, I wonder?

Yet, I must not pity him, for then I merely judge him by his infirmity, not who he truly is.  That judgment is as shallow as theirs.

I wonder another thing: Why did this meeting affect me so?  Then, a memory surfaced…

I was seven, maybe eight years old.  I was outside with my dad. Up the street walked two parents and behind them… I laughed at how he looked.

I laughed the kind of laughter that could not be suppressed.  I guess I thought it was funny because I could not see the child’s pain or notice him wince.  Nor did I see the helpless anguish I am sure must have inflected the faces of his parents who, yet again, had to try to protect their son against the lash of peoples’ mindless disapproval and scorn.

But that day, years and years ago, I laughed; Today, I did not.

Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.

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