An Unusual Friendship
My 7 year old daughter is a friend with the self-proclaimed "craziest man in Uptown!"
On one particular warm summer evening, Muriwai and I bumped into him on the street. He is 6 ft 3, extremely loud, psychotically laughs like a maniac at everything he says, is highly energetic, doesn't control his tongue well and always engages us. As he focuses on my little girl, she smiles shyly! On this particular day, some nervous bystanders watch, as this overly emotional sweating black man engages this calm little white girl, but all is good as he tells her some crazy joke about nothing and bursts into laughter that was loud enough to shatter all surrounding ear drums.
I realize my innocent little sweetie pie is a buddy with a man who yells out his catch phrase; "I'm crazy, very crazzzzzzzyyyyyyy, the craziest man in Uptown, but..... don't call me stupid, coz I ain't stupid!" He does this while beating his chest, bugging out his eyes, screaming into the air with his tongue sticking out and finishing with his infamous laugh! Then he immediately transforms into a picture of seriousness, as he emphasizes the "not stupid" bit. Yet, this awkward friendship does not scare me, it actually makes me smile, because I know he would protect Muriwai with his life!
As we walk away, Muriwai asks, "daddy; why does your friend laugh like that?" The only words I can find are; "he just does, sweetie, he just does!" With all her intrigue, she smiles and asks a few more questions about him, feeling safe!
I feel privileged knowing that this man and my children are friends. Their connection actually started about 6 years ago; Beth and I were taking the kids for a walk around the neighborhood. WaiWai was a newborn in the stroller and Cycy was riding in a child carrier on my back. It was already dark when he saw us. He was chilling with a few buddies, yet with every inch of his obnoxious loudness, laughing and his constant invading of personal space, he intensely focused on and engaged us all. At this point, Beth and the kids barely knew him, so that initial encounter made me a little nervous. I was thinking his gruffness and raw intensity would terrify our kids, yet I was pleasantly surprised to see both of them chilled out, bugged eyed and smiling at one of the craziest encounters their young lives had ever experienced.
Later that evening, Beth and I discussed this encounter and are proud to say that our children do not cower away from the people we constantly meet on the street. A majority of these people are men and women who society says, "fear them", "marginalize them", "isolate them" and "stay clear of them". These men and women are people struggling with mental illnesses, addictions, criminal records, homelessness, gang affiliations, medical ailments and physical differences. Some of these people struggle every day with all these marginalizing realities, yet I can testify that all these men and women have always treated our children with the utmost respect. They love our kids! Most days, Cyrus and Muriwai watch as Beth and I communicate with, hug, shake hands and exchange the gentle "fist to fist" greeting with all these men and women. They have no reason to fear. They feel the love. They know they are safe. They know they're alright!
As we fast-forward into 2012, a lot of things have changed with the self-proclaimed "craziest man in Uptown", but when I see him, he always asks about Cyrus and Muriwai; he genuinely cares and wants to see them. He still delights in the fact that Cyrus likes his cereal crunchy, while he is a soggy cereal guy.
Today he's lying in a Nursing Home bed. About a year ago, he took a turn for the worse and is sadly dying at an age that is too young to die. Very recently he had a leg amputated just above the knee. This past connection, once secured by his psychotically loud laugh and overtly aggressive attention seeking, has been amped up by his new limb difference. Whereas, we haven't and don't want to explain to our incredibly compassionate and inquisitive daughter the daunting reality of this man's fate, we've told her about his amputated leg. Muriwai, who was born without her left hand, now feels a deeper connection and he rests upon her tender heart. She visited him on his birthday, shared cake with him and made a card for him. Whenever we're in the vicinity of the Nursing home, she remembers he's there and speaks fondly of her sick, but alert, buddy....
beyond all that,
our 7 year old daughter,
loves to saturate her nightly prayers with petitions for her sick buddy.....
the self-proclaimed "craziest man of Uptown!"