Alone on his birthday

Part One of John

Part Two of John

And this is Part Three.

This evening, when I went to church, I was met by John. He was all excited to see me because we haven’t bump into each other since Christmas Day. He owe me a backpack. Did I mention about Christmas Day?

On Christmas Day, I was in the church choir and therefore, brought a backpack (instead of my ah soh’s handbag) with me to store my music sheets and Christmas cookies for John and my kids godfather. After mass, I caught up with John to pass him his Christmas present, wondering whether he already had a whole load of things on that day and can still take one more. Well, he didn’t. And he can’t carry the present because his hands are all shriveled due to a birth disorder. I looked at him, he looked at me. What to do? So, I poured out all the stuffs in my backpack and gave it to John so that he can put the present inside and sling it over his shoulder. That’s why he is very eager to return me the bag.

He blurted out ‘toooooddddday is my bday’
I gave him a hug. I promise him a gift next time I see him.
I asked ‘ How old are you?’
With a person like John, you cannot guess whether he is 10, 20, 30 or 40.
I told him I am going to say the biggest, most special prayer and ask the Lord to give him BIG BIG blessings just for him. When one have kids as many as I, it is easy for me to illustrate things with my hands, facial expression and body languages. It made him laughed. But I noted a teary eyes when I asked him how he had celebrated it. No cake, no present, no loved ones.

I told him to keep the backpack because my son said he won’t be needing it. He was happy. I gave him a few bucks for his meals.

In church, I was in the choir for our Cathedral of the Holy Spirit 2nd anniversary. Whenever I am in a choir, I concentrate real hard on the choirmaster and his instructions. A greenhorn like me cannot afford to squeak at the wrong time. Choirmaster is a foul-temper lawyer but sweetest man when not provoked. So, I make sure carafe like me don’t get knocked on the head for wrong timing. If I don’t have the voice, at least I make up in enthusiasm. Usually the whole 2 hours passed with full tension.

But, we have Tamil and Mandarin hymns sung by other groups so I have a break and a moment to contemplate. The melodious hymn of Yes, I thank you Lord, in Mandarin touched me somehow. I never fail to cry by verse 2 or 3 when it is sung in English. (nolah, not finding excuses to borrow leng chai’s sleeve and nolah, I can’t understand the Mandarin hymns). The lyrics is really touching because it is about thanking God even for the trials that come our way. Hey, it is not easy to ‘feel’ for things like these, you know? How can one feel thankful even when one is going through rough patches? But with faith in God, it is possible.

So, after I felt all mushy and fuzzy, I walked out feeling like I had not been ‘good enough’, not up to par yet. And I met John again. John was hesitating, wanting to ask me something. I knew right away he needed transport. I felt honoured, flattered and wanted. Having a person like John who trust me enough is not easy. He must have been hurted by a lot of people who looked down on him, who shunned him and etc.But he likes me enough to ask me a favour.

So, I drove him back, taking him around Air Itam searching for nasi kandar. Only later, John told me ‘tomorrow raya, no open’. Chey.. why I so dumb? I drove from Green Lane to Air Itam and then, Rifle Range. (finally settled for Chinese curry rice)

I found out that John’s mom abandoned him since small. He said never mind la, got other people nice to him enough. He got aunties but they also don’t visit him. He was brought up by someone (I can’t make out whom he said) and he speaks only English. In that few minutes, I learnt that people are being cruel to him because he is different. He said he wants to open a stall to sell things. I don’t know how or what but I am going to make sure that people will be less nasty to persons like John. Because if I feel comfortable with John, so can anyone.

I did babble some pretty stupid things to comfort John. I reminded him to be thankful for what he has because some people are blind, some have no place to stay but he is able to move around and stay on his own. Now, I do feel like an idiot but then, people also comforted me before when my son died. They say I got many other sons, so what’s wrong with one less son? Just like I tell John, you can walk, talk, so what’s wrong with being retarded and crooked?

Further lessons learnt from conversation with John – John has feelings,pride, demand and is just like one of us. Don’t ever look down on John. The next time, you see a handicapped/retarded person selling things, please buy , even if you don’t need them.