Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Sorrow and the joy

Number 3 wireless was about 48 families living in an old wireless training station that had been converted to apartments. The families were close knit in one respect. We all lived within a very short distance from each other and there were lots of kids and there was always something going on. It could be noisy at times and when you live that close there isn't much going on that we all didn't know about. We had a football area between the two H huts and played there until dark on the weekends. The football games were just the local kids and we chose up sides and played touch football. On one side of the field there was a handicapped guy who lived in an apartment right next to the field. He was cranky and bad tempered and often shouted at us kids from his wheel chair to shut up and go home. We ignored him but he would sit there watching us and kept saying rude things. One particular Saturday the ball was kicked over in his direction and he managed to get a hold of it. He had a pocket knife with him and punctured the ball. That ended the game real quick. He held up that flattened ball and laughed and threw it on the ground. One of the bigger kids started toward him but since he had a knife he thought better of it. Some of the kids' parents were soon over there but he had gone inside and wouldn't answer his door.
There were hard feelings and some of the parents bawled him out a few days later when they caught him outside. Still, him being handicapped meant that no one wanted to pursue the matter and it soon dropped. We kids were more careful after that and tried real hard to keep the ball away from his area. He persisted on being ornery and often jeered at us when we were playing. Someone got the bright idea of trying to find out about him. We soon discovered that he had been in an accident and suffered the loss of his two legs. He had a wife and two kids who definitely had to share his unhappiness. He was known around the apartment house as uncooperative and could be sullen and definitely unfriendly.
His wife was a very quiet woman and his two girls were shy and reserved with the rest of us. I can't remember all we found out but whatever it was painted a picture of a very difficult situation. We talked amongst ourselves and decided we would try to be helpful and nice to him.
We would shout greetings to him and try to talk to him. At first he wasn't having anything to do with it. We persisted and we would quit the football game a little early to appease him. We didn't go home but found other things to do. We found out he had a hard time getting in and out of his apartment as there was no ramp there. One of the kids talked to his dad who was skilled with his hands. Some lumber was found and we all helped him build a ramp from the sidewalk to the door entrance of the apartment. We convinced some of our mothers to bake a cake or some goodies and we took them over to him. It wasn't long before we were out playing and he was out watching us and shouting encouragement to us. We asked him to referee the game from where he was sitting and when he made a decision we didn't argue with him. One day when we all gathered to play football he called us over. There in his hands was a brand new football. He handed it over to us and said that's for the one I ruined. We all thanked him and started playing the game. He was refereeing and having as much fun as we were. His wife was smiling and the two girls looked happy. He was outside a lot when us kids were there and his whole attitude had changed. He moved a year later and told us kids we were worth saying goodbye to. He then had his wife and kids bring out some hot dogs and fixens along with some Kool aid to wash it down.
We missed him right off and for a few days we would look over where he used to sit and make comments about his absence and then, as kids will do, put our attention to other things

We may have lived on poverty row and our attitudes weren't always on straight but thank goodness we got it right with him. Some things are just right to do and should get done.


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