Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To hop and chase - A [nonclinical] patient encounter


I walked sneakily around the playing children, afraid I would interrupt their game.

I was on my way to the car to grab my usual breakfast—two packets of Jungle Oats instant oatmeal. (“Apple-Cinnamon”, “Tropical Fruit”, and “Caramel” are my favorite flavors, in that order; I do miss Quaker Oats' “Cinnamon & Spice” and “Maple Brown Sugar” flavors, though. No maple trees here in Swaziland. Few Quakers.)

As I walked back from my car toward the clinic’s entrance, all five of the kids were hopping around on one foot, following one another around a small imaginary circle. A few of them were themselves spinning as they hopped.

A small solar system of giggling pediatric HIV patients.

I casually backed up and leaned against the glass window beside the clinic entrance, watching the twirling. Spontaneously, the circular, spirited hopping became a game of circular chase, with the ~7 year-old chasing the ~5 year-old chasing the ~4 year-old chasing the two ~3 year-olds. The older children were running just slow enough to make the race sporty.

I used to offer the same advantage to my brother, Nick, when he was young. He is now bigger, stronger, and faster than me and regularly returns the favor.

After a full minute of orbital chasing, the oldest child suddenly broke away to see what a nearby ~2 year-old (his sibling, I think) was eating. Whatever it was, it appeared to be from the ground, and the ~7 year-old dutifully took the morsel away and discarded it in the direction of some nearby bushes.

He then picked up the small child in that way that small children pick up slightly smaller children, with a slight bend of the knees, and upwards heave, and a carefully-timed sideways thrust of the hip, after which the slightly smaller child lands with an thud and soft grunt while grasping on to whatever the other child is wearing, or, if reach allows, the neck.

The two wobbled a bit and then moved toward the clinic door.

I turned in the direction of the entrace as well and waved to the remaining children, who were still running in loops. As I turned to follow the wobbly pair, the four kids suddenly ceased giving chase to one another and, like an uncoiling spring, charged towards me.

They formed a small semicircle (trapezoid?) around me, which gave me a brief start, then, with much youthful pomp, they waved back.

I waved for a bit longer, then, feeling the need to do something different, gave a thumbs up. The four answered with the same before elatedly running back to their patch of grass to continue to find simple pleasure in simple games that I long ago abandoned to become a grown-up.

Now I just watch and try to remember enough of the experience to write it down so that you might see a bit in my words how these children do not deserve to die of a treatable disease, so that you might catch a brief, up-close glimpse of just how arbitrarily nature allocates its afflictions.



At 6:38 PM, Blogger Leigh said...

I love your description of one child picking up another. I can see it. Great writing. Leigh


Post a Comment

<< Home