Mother and son

For years I saw him walk past our house with his mother.  He was older than me but I never saw him by himself or go to school.  Sometimes his siblings would walk along with him but his mother would always be there too.

Back then, the term used was ‘mongoloid’, a word that puzzled me.  We knew nothing about the disorder, why it had that name or what the symptoms were.  It wasn’t until I was in secondary school that I learned about the condition and its proper name.

photo credit: baldyczeks via photopin cc

We lived in a village on the outskirts of a small rural town.  It was a place where religion and superstition lived hand in hand; where transgressions and gossip were as significant in people’s lives as their daily bread.

It was unusual then, for a disabled child to live at home rather than in an institution but his mother was determined to keep him with her despite the criticism and pressure from family and neighbours.  She got on with her life, raising several children and doing the hard work that women in villages had to do.  She learned to live with the stares, the whispers and the hurtful remarks. Eventually as the years passed, mother and son became a common sight and they were left alone.

In time his brothers and sisters left home and his father died.  But still, as late as his forties, he and his mother would go for their walks.  They always walked at the same pace; she dressed in black, old and hunched, slightly ahead; him close by, always at the same distance, always looking just ahead.  I never saw them talk to each other but whenever they passed someone he would always say the same words “what time is it?’

I used to wonder what would happen to him if his mother died first but I learned some time ago that he was the first to go.

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7 thoughts on “Mother and son

  1. It’s very hard for a mother to leave her child, even if the child has some sort of disability. I remember a woman from my dad’s side, whose last child is retarded. People have said all sorts of things — from the child being cursed to the woman being the cause because they claimed she had an extramarital affair. Truth is, none of those claims have affected her. She’s has been taking care of her 12-year-old child since his birth.

    With a gentle style of narration and the eye of a good observer, you’ve served another touching tale.

  2. Lena, first let me say that I don’t know anything about this condition and the treatment(s) available. However, it bothers me that the son remained by his mother’s side until his forties. I feel as if she ‘held’ him back from life. If he received specialist treatment, might he not have lived a ‘fuller’ life? Sometimes in protecting the ones we love, we overprotect them and they never learn to fly… just a thought… I mean this is a short story and we’re all just filling in the blanks…

    • I think your comment confirms how far our perceptions and expectations in relation to disability have moved, Timi. In those days (not such a distant past) disability of any sort was a bit of a taboo and children often ended up in institutions more to be out of sight than for development. As far as I am aware it is only in more recent times that experts have come to realise that there are many differences among people with Down Syndrome and that some can lead fully independent lives. So in this case, we saw it as a positive thing what the mother was doing – rather than hide her son she tried to give him as normal a life as possible. I do agree with your point though – to see a parent today, not giving their child all the help they can get does not seem right.

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