Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘siblings’

Emmanuel’s Story

From ROP Stories.

This is Emmanuel, a fiery, precocious 11 year old. Or maybe he’s 12. Probably though, he’s only ten years old, judging by his size. You see, Emmanuel doesn’t know how old he is. He doesn’t know the year he was born, and if you ask him which day, his answer will be January 1st. Coincidentally that is the same birthday as many of the children staying at the Rwandan Orphans Project Center. Actually it’s not a coincidence at all, because Emmanuel is not alone in not knowing his actual birthday, so like many others he simply tells people he was born on January 1st.

Not knowing his own birthday is low on the list of difficulties young Emmanuel has faced in his short life. You see, the fact that he lives at the ROP Center means that he comes from a difficult background. But for the boy with the irresistible grin life has been particularly cruel. When he was, in his words “much younger” – keep in mind his current age when you read that – he witnessed his father beat his own mother to death right in front of him. Emmanuel’s father – he doesn’t recall his name – was part of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He doesn’t know if he was a survivor or a perpetrator, but he knows that it led him to a life of alcoholism and abuse. Often, his father would drink heavily and take out his aggression on Emmanuel, his mother and his young siblings. One day, in an alcohol fueled rage, his father beat his mother so badly with his walking stick that she died, right in front of little Emmanuel. To this day he doesn’t know what caused him to do it.

His father, being a cripple, was quickly apprehended by the police and subsequently given a life sentence in jail for his vicious crime. Emmanuel and his siblings had no relatives who could care for them, so they were left to fend for themselves. So Emmanuel did what so many children in Rwanda are forced to, he turned to the streets to survive. There his life became about just making it to the next day by any means possible. Begging for food and change was a necessity, but with gangs of street kids controlling the most profitable locales, it was not easy for a lone child to get anything for himself. If he did, usually the gangs would corner him and beat him until he surrendered it to them.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire. MORE

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My Mother’s Son

After spending a week together, I discovered that my Mama-San, as I used to call her when I was a teen, is getting older! I know that shouldn’t be a surprise, but alas, it made me acutely aware that I too am a little hard of hearing, don’t walk as far as I used to and can’t read small print, even with my glasses on.

Being alone with my mother, for the first time in about a decade, without other siblings or grandchildren around, also reminded me of other ways we’re alike. We both “plan” and worry about the future, whether it’s days or hours away. We both love reading, movies and music; often the same books, films and artists. We are both interested in other people and like to hear about their lives, thoughts and feelings. We both have big noses, big feet and love cats.

She has a habit of starting to talk about something that she has been thinking of in her head, but when she speaks you have no idea why she’s suddenly talking about a friend’s son in Washington who builds houses. It usually takes a minute or two and some investigative skills, to discover how she got to where she is and why you didn’t understand the connection.

Alas, some people, including my wife, tell me I do the same thing! For instance, she’ll be talking about the garden, which “naturally” makes me think of carrots, which in turn leads me to thoughts of Bugs Bunny, which lapses into “What’s up Doc.” At that point I began to think of doctors, health care and insurance, which inevitably causes me to blurt out, “Did we pay that last bill from the doctor visit?”

After a week with my mother I understand more clearly then ever why people often have such a perplexed look on their faces when I make such statements and why, upon explanation of my “logical” train of thought, they laugh or ignore me altogether.

Neither my Mom nor I can read our own handwriting, which can cause countless confusion and misunderstanding. We would make excellent physicians, as nobody could read our prescriptions.

On the other hand, we do have our differences, thank goodness. My mother has always loved to wear bright colored clothing with animal shaped earrings. In contrast, I tend to wear the same tired old blue, green and black that I’ve worn since childhood and I never wear earrings. She was raised as a Methodist and I have practiced Buddhism, converted to Catholicism for a few years and attended Quaker Meeting for a few more. And she posed nude for an art class, in her younger years, which I wouldn’t be caught dead doing at any age!

Remember that book that said, “Everything You Needed to Know You Learned in Kindergarten”? Well, everything important that I’ve learned has come from my Mom. She has always been an example of strength and independence, even when women were not “supposed” to be that way. She taught me to be honest, caring, involved and to respect others. And most importantly, she showed me that personal happiness and love could live simultaneously with responsibility. Maybe it’s not so bad to be like my mother after all!

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