Other stories I’ve been meaning to tell…
My parents randomly have a Ugandan boy living with them. A few weeks ago, on a day we had a big deadline looming, my dad suddenly gets a phone call and heads out, telling me he’s picking up someone from the airport. Okay… not ideal, but okay. I assume he’ll be back shortly. An hour goes by. Bren and I are waiting, working on the parts of the project we can without Ken, but anxious for Ken’s return since he’s doing a big piece of this project. Two hours pass. Three. Four. Finally I call his cell phone and he tells me he’s leaving home and on his way back in. Okay. When he arrived, we didn’t have time for questions and got right to work to meet the deadline.
A day or two later, he casually mentions Allan (a name I don’t know) and something about him being at the house. Who’s Allan?? I ask. Little did I realize where this was headed…
It turns out a woman who lives around here, who I’ve seen around but don’t know and didn’t realize my parents knew her either. Anyway she has some foundation or something that she runs to connect kids in third world countries who need surgeries with wealthy American doctors willing to donate their services. I vaguely remember seeing some blip in the parish bulletin a few months before asking for help (both monetary and physical). Anyway, apparently my dad sees this woman at Mass, and being the super-extrovert that he is, is chatting with her and the subject comes up. Also because he’s my dad, he says they could help in some small way if need be. So she calls the day Allan arrives from Uganda needing help getting him from the airport, thus the lengthy absence. Allan is twelve years old and has cerebral palsy. He has one arm that is fully functioning and one he can’t use. He’s never stood before, his legs are totally useless. This woman has lined up surgeries to repair his arm and legs to at least allow him some use of them. So my dad was asked to help since Alan needs to be lifted in and out of his wheelchair, the car, etc.
I’m still fuzzy on the details here, but next thing we know, Allan is living with my parents. It was apparently also a shock to them. I guess foundation lady thought she’d get a lot more volunteers to host him for a week at a time, etc. and she thought she could host him in the gaps. As it turns out, she’s caring for her elderly mother and can’t take him and hasn’t lined up anywhere for this poor kid to stay, so she asks if my parents can take care of him for the time being. Naturally, because they are very generous and also very “P” (more comfortable with flexibility than with a plan), they said he could.
Since they didn’t plan in advance to have him, there were some immediate adjustments, things that could have been planned for, had this been communicated. Luckily my parents are very flexible and started making adjustments as needed. Allan is used to being pretty independent and so it was tough for him to need help using the toilet, getting into the huge guest bed, going down the stairs, etc. Apparently though, he only needed help the first few times and after that was determined to do it on his own. Did I also mention he doesn’t speak English? Well, that’s another interesting factor here. He does understand a lot of English, and could say “yes” and “no” but couldn’t really communicate much more than that at first.
Allan comes from a tiny village in Uganda and attends school there. His father died when he was very young and when his mother re-married. I guess he lives with an uncle and spends most of his time at school (from what I can gather anyway). Allan is the same age as my youngest brother Owen, and I think it’s really cool they’ve become friends. I also think it’s great that my family can reach out and help this kid who clearly needs a family (here) and a home in the midst of surgeries and recovery and all of this (the time frame of his visit is till unclear as well).
I had the pleasure of meeting Allan a few days after his arrival when my little sister invited me to dinner. She was cooking the whole meal herself and invited my grandpa and some of my other siblings. I walk into the kitchen and am greeted by an older gentleman with a camcorder. “Hi!” he says. My mom introduces me as her daughter, and he says “Oh, well I didn’t see you here yesterday.” Me: “Um I don’t live here anymore.” No more information is currently given to me, just the name “This is George.” George is standing in the cluttered kitchen, among the chaos, chatting, filming, and really hyped up about Alan.
George googles Alan’s school and shows Alan the pictures “Are these your friends Alan?”
George, with camcorder running: “Look, here’s Alan looking at his friends pictures on the internet!!” (takes shots of Alan’s smile, the pictures on the screen).
Me (in my head): Seriously, who is this guy???
Everybody is arriving, Fiona is finishing dinner, we set the table, and sit down. Alan wasn’t hungry having eaten his first American pizza after his doctors appointment that day so he stayed at the computer. I imagine he needed some space in the midst of the commotion as well. Grandpa is telling stories in his usual style, George is talking away at the other end of the table, and mostly I’m just a bit confused by this whole thing. When dessert came out, we convinced Alan to come join us. George had to grab the camcorder to record his first drink of chocolate milk: “Oh my, he’s never had chocolate milk before! Wow, Alan, how was that? Your first drink of chocolate milk!!!” And the camcorder and excited running commentary reappeared for the first bite of apple pie, and the second bite of ice cream since my mom jumped the gun on the bite before his camera was ready. Meanwhile I’m watching this whole thing in awe and confusion over who this guy is. Does excited older gentleman now live here too?
It was actually several days later that I got the scoop from my dad. George is a member of a rotary group that raised some money to bring Alan here. And he is apparently quite excited and wants to record it.
Well this has been long enough for segment one… stay tuned for more…