Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Part 6: Beautiful

As published in the MP109 Convocation Magazine

My name is Miriam. My son, Mike, is six years old. He’s the light of my life. Intelligent, inquisitive, playful, cheeky. He loves jumping around, has a somewhat disturbing affinity for mud and grass, and if he ever had the chance to sit on a piano chair, I assure you he’d be laughing away at the music he makes – that is, if it is even music to begin with.

Every afternoon when my son comes home from kindergarten, he’ll give an exceptionally detailed report about his adventures in the past four hours. Sometimes it’ll be about how he ran across the kindergarten field without hitting anything or anyone, and there was once when he boasted about how he sang Jason Mraz’s ‘I’m Yours’ in class and his girlfriend gave him a flower for it.

“Where’s the flower?” He proudly held up his bag. I laughed as I discovered the crushed and mangled ‘flower’, a paper aeroplane wedged between his water bottle and a half-eaten sandwich. Boys will be boys.

One fine afternoon, I was working on my husband’s tax returns as Mike sat at the table going through the details of his day, as always. He related a difficult word the teacher taught in class today. “Um, it’s A-d-j…” he tried to spell the word.

“Adjective, you mean?” I offered.

“Ya ya ya!” He said excitedly. “Teacher said we can use it to talk about things, like big, small… His hands waved frantically as he showed me ‘big’ and ‘small’. “Then she taught us many other words… um, sweet, beautiful, sour…”

“Mikey, what is sour?” I quizzed him teasingly.

“Ummm… Sour is… like when you eat lemon!!!” he squealed, with eyes tightly shut and eyebrows curled into a frown. I chuckled and ruffled his soft hair, as I picked up my pen to continue.


“Yes, love.”

“What is ‘beautiful’?”

The pen dropped out of my hands and nearly rolled off the table. My heart sank. As I turned to look at Mike, it hit me hard, again, that no matter how he behaves, no matter how much we try to treat him as normally as any other kid, no matter what people have to say about his beautiful brown eyes, the truth still remains.

My son is blind.

So how do you teach a blind child to see?

“Well Mike…” I fumbled for the right words as I sat him down on the chair next to mine. “Something beautiful is something that makes you very very happy…” I gently touched his cheek, only to see a smile curve over his chubby face. “Something that you like so so so much that you want to keep it forever and never it give away!!”

He looked thoughtful. “Like ice-cream?”

“Yes honey, something like that. But even better than ice-cream.

Something that you love very much. Something that will always make you smile, something that will always make you happy…”

Oh, okay… came his reply.

I rearranged the papers in front of me aimlessly, noticing a slight tremor in my hands. My son still remained rooted on that chair, and my heart was in a mess. I felt awful, not being able to teach my son about what it means to be beautiful. And in moments like this, I wished I was a better mother, perhaps better equipped or trained to deal with my son’s disabilities. To have better answers, maybe?

“Mummy?” he called out, arms outstretched.

That’s his cue when he wants me close, or when he wants me to pick him up, or give him a hug. I leaned over to reach him. His small hands gently squeezed my cheeks.

“Mummy," the words seemed to take an eternity before he blurted it out sweetly. "You are beautiful.”

Any words I had just caught in my throat, and tears flowed from my eyes as I picked him up and hugged him tightly, never wanting to let him go.

That day, I discovered something I’ll never forget. That the eye grants you the ability to look, but believing in those things that never meet the eye? That is sight. And for all that it is worth, my blind six-year-old son, my precious Mike, has probably taught me more about seeing than anyone else ever will.