By Harold Hand
Continued from: First Steps: Strawberry Chocolate and Broken Glass
As we clap for Derrick, Baby Josh leans in and starts to reach for Joshuas candy. Baby Josh is five months old. The other kids call him Baby Josh so as not to confuse him with the older Joshua, although it usually runs together to sound more like Bajosh.
Joshua sees him reaching into the bright red bag, and in a high-pitched tone he shouts, Uh-uh Bajosh, you better get your hand away from that bag. Baby Josh doesnt listen, and Jason finally has to pull him away from the shiny candy wrappers. Jason, who came with our group, sits on the floor to my right and holds Baby Josh in his lap as he fights off sleep.
Then Jada walks up to me and hands me the pink miniature Frisbee from her bag and says, My ball. She is two years old and a radiant beauty. Her skin is lighter than the others and is smooth, like a blend of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream. Her hair is pulled up into little braids that stick straight out off of her head in all directions and remind me of Coolio. She has huge brown eyes and is dressed in a pink sweat suit. I lean over and tell her, This is a Frisbee. Can you say Frisbee? She looks at me with her big brown eyes and says, Fissee. We all laugh and tell her to say it again.
Jada is Joshuas biological sister. Their mother has never been able to contact either of them, at least not since Joshua was an infant. Ms. Brown hands me a picture of Joshua and his mother and tells me she was fifteen when she had him. She looks so young and beautiful, like Jada. Joshua points to the picture of his mother and tells me she is his sister, which would be much more believable than the truth. Ms. Brown tells me that she has tried to explain the situation to Joshua, but he doesnt yet understand. She will try again when he is a little older.
As I put the picture back on the end-table, Baby Josh catches his second wind. He climbs carefully off of Jasons lap and sprawls out on the floor, waving his arms and legs in excitement. His story may be the worst of all. His mother was signing papers at the hospital a few days after delivery, and when the nurse walked away to get something for her, she left and was never seen again. She left Baby Josh right there in the maternity ward. Ms. Brown got him when he was two weeks old and has had him ever since.
Baby Joshs mother was a drug addict of the worst sort and didnt bother stopping after finding out she was pregnant. She left him with many different drug addictions, even as an infant. Ms. Brown tells us the latest tests showed that the methamphetamines and heroin are doing the most damage now. The doctors are still finding traces of these drugs in his blood samples. Baby Josh has developed a severe respiratory disease from the drugs, but is showing signs of improvement. When we were here two months ago, he wheezed with every breath he took. He sounded like a ninety year old emphysema patient. Today his breathing is better, but we still hear some congestion with every few breaths.
I sit in silence as Ms. Brown describes the diagnosis to me. She looks me square in the eyes and says, The doctor told me the breathing problem will either go away on its own, or one day he will just stop breathing. We just keep praying that he wont stop.
This news is crushing. I try to wear my best poker face, but my heart shatters and I think Ms. Brown can hear it. It sounds like one of the kids has thrown a rock through a window in the den, but she recognizes the sound and doesnt pull any of the curtains back to check. She keeps looking into my eyes, her large round face encasing my stare.
As we drive home after saying our goodbyes to the family, which involve many hugs and some baby slobber, Jessica says that in cases like Baby Joshs she thinks we should encourage abortion. In my mind I remember Baby Josh trying to pull himself up with his arms and trying to balance on his feet. I remember Ms. Brown telling us that she doesnt know whether he will crawl first or just start walking. To me, Baby Josh, along with the other three children, is a picture of courage and hope. He is taking all this world has thrown at him and he is shooting for the stars. He is pushing through the pain and suffering his mother left him with, and he is daring to stand on his own two feet, even when the world is telling him he isnt ready.
I cant help but think that some day I will read Derricks book and learn some valuable lesson no one else could have taught me. I cant help but think that some day I will sit backstage and listen to Josh sing songs of victory and joy for thousands of adoring fans. I cant help but think that one day I will see Jada on TV showing us what true beauty is, no airbrush or makeup needed. I cant help but think that Baby Josh will never be stuck on his knees; that he will walk before he crawls.
Keith is a college drop-out at Valdosta State University. He is going back to school in the fall to start working on his philosophy degree while frantically trying to finish his book about Bible Belt Christianity. He also has a pet Dumbo Rat named Ebu who is over 15 inches long from head to tail. You can look him up on Facebook or read his blog at kmizzle7.livejournal.com.