My boss had called a parent in. He was a chubby man and had a paunch. He looked really humble and sad. His sadness was the kind that you had by getting used to whatever you were sad about for a very long time and so you now wear it as happiness. They began to speak in the ikwerre dialect punctuated by English language. It was about a student — the man’s son. He is disabled. The man explained that as a baby, he had a growth (I think in his brain but definitely in his head region — I couldn’t decipher the words said in ikwerre). The boy had spent more time in hospitals than out of it. Overtime, the growth had disappeared (or was it treated??) but he now had hearing and sight problems. His grades were very bad (in fact, the Polytechnic had expelled him based on his grades, but he didn’t know and was still coming to school as he couldn’t understand these things).
I sat in my chair, my eyes pretending to watch my red pen glide across the scripts in front of me, but inside I was broken, weeping. My eyes were almost beginning to water at the man’s resignation of his son’s condition, the way he spoke, with an absence of hope. This is why I did not study and ‘maybe’ will not study medicine — my emotions were not built for this kind of realisation — the empty feeling when you cannot offer help to someone, when you have to say “Sorry, we lost him/her.”
I was just in primary 3 when I realised that the words on the board were beginning to blur — I wasn’t very concerned with it because well, it will go away. By the time I got to JSS1, I knew the blur wasn’t going anywhere. By JSS2 I was failing tests because I did not copy the questions rightly and I knew it was time I told my mother. When I did, my neighbour ignorantly told my mother that I had seen people wear glasses and so I wanted to feel among. Let’s pause here. I am sure me saying I use glasses is new to you? Exactly! I do not even like wearing them. So why would I want to wear glasses because my mates are? I’ve never been one to follow the crowd and what’s in vogue. Sadly my mother took the neighbour’s side and not mine. By SS1, my mother realised that it was either her child’s sight or her motherhood and she took me to an optometrist. The lady screamed at how bad my sight had gone for someone making a first pair of glasses.
There are times I’ve cried because I felt blind, couldn’t see what others were seeing and I have wondered what people who are completely blind feel. Then there are the insensitive people who made fun of your disability — the blind Bart. callers, or the silly ones who scream “You mean you can’t see that?”. I had to deal with all of that.
That boy will be dropping out of the Polytechnic. I do not know where his father will be taking him to or what will be done for him. Hearing aids have been recommended but his father said they can’t seem to find him the right glasses. I am really sad about what this boy is going through and how he needs to find people who are patient enough to be around him.
I once wrote that to be insensitive is one of the deadliest sins. We need to be there for humanity and be understanding and patient with those who truly require it. This is me telling you that if you have a disability, you’re not alone. Push people away who make fun of you and make you feel any less than special. Don’t lose hope. You don’t have to cry over it and feel sad all of the time, you need to find the ability in your disability.