I’ve realized I haven’t adequately talked about one of the most special people in my life. A boy born with mental retardation, hands, feet and soul far too big for his gangly teenage body, has adopted me as his mother. I say this because he has a mother, a wonderful one I might add. But I don’t have a son, which is shameful for someone my age in a little Ghanaian village like Sankpala. Did I ask Aze to be my son? No, I had no say in the matter. But at this point, when I am away from Sankpala, I have dreams that he has spotted me across the street, between overgrown mango trees, frantically waving his arms in the air yelling “Miriam! Miriam! Miriam!” And when I wake, I feel a little empty inside.

Aze is sitting outside my home before I drink my morning coffee. He sits with me as I eat my breakfast and we take in the cool morning. He waits outside as I dress, asking, “Te chang shukuru? (Are we going to school?)” Bella, bella, I respond, which in so many words means, Give me a minute, will ya? He takes my bag off my shoulder, whether I want him to or not. Being that he is far stronger than he knows, I give in. We walk to school and talk about how hot it is and how we want it to rain. He sits in the corner of the classroom and watches me teach, until he decides he wants to be the class clown, which is when I throw chalk at him and throw him out. We play this awful game I hate, and my students love, where he repeats every word I say until I completely lose my mind.

He follows me home, or to Azara’s house, or to the dam. If I’m doing laundry, he sticks his muddy hands in there with me to ‘help’. He breaks into a roll of laughter as I take a deep breath, dump out the water, cleaning his hands in the process and start new. At lunchtime, he announces “Miriam, go home!” He is telling me he is going home to eat, which is kind of funny because when I am really mad, I yell “Aze, go home!”

I take advantage of the silence, and try to take a nap. Very little time will pass until he is back and sticking his big eyes through the slits in my kitchen, chanting, “Miriam, Miriam.” I stumble out of bed, pull the curtain aside and ask what he wants. He will then show me a crack in a chair, or a pile of ants on the floor, or ask me for every item of food in my kitchen.
In the afternoon we play games. One is body tricks, when we take turns contorting our fingers and faces in weird ways, all the while viciously clapping for ourselves. This will go on for hours. Sometimes we play, what’s in Aze’s bag?, which is more fun for me than him. I dump out everything in his bag, almost all being items he found in my garbage, ie. my income tax manual, 2 Peace Corps manuals, empty candy wrappers, birth control dispenser, water bottle, 3 American flag pencils and a green heart-shaped sharpener. Another game I enjoy more than him is Sa Kana! (it’s raining!), which is when I pour handfuls of water over his head while washing my clothes. Aze’s favorite game is what I like to call MBora (I want), which is when he happens to want everything I am either holding or eating. He wins when I give him a spoonful or two, he loses when I say “Aze, go home!”
I make dinner and have learned by now to make enough for the both of us. We watch the footballers create a dust storm outside my window, until I decide its time for a walk. We talk about how beautiful the sunset is, and whether we think there will be crocodiles at the dam. Sometimes Aze decides we are going to run, which lasts about 20 seconds because neither of us have very good lungs. Sometimes we march like soldiers. Sometimes we dance. We stop by the clinic and greet the midwife since it is on the way home. “How is your body guard?” she asks. He’s fantastic, I say, watching him slink into the corner. The clinic reminds Aze of childhood shots, he’s not a fan of the place. And then she asks me what everyone asks me. “How do you communicate with that boy?”

Oh, forgot to mention that. Aze doesn’t speak a lick of English. And my Dagbani is comparable to that of a three-year old. And yet he knows clearly when I am tired, when I am sick, when I am on the verge of tears. He knows when I am having an amazing day, when I’m looking forward to a trip, when I just had a great phone conversation with my mom. And I know everything there is to know about Aze. He is pretty predictable. He is happy, he is joy, he is, shall I say, all encompassing glee. Every morning, there he is, with that oversized goofy grin on his face, excited for how crazy he is going to make me that day.

We walk to my compound, and I tell him its time for him to go home and sleep. Yo, he says, agreeing. Aze, I say after him, Nawuni ti beow (may God bless your sleep). Biane, (tomorrow) he says.

Biane, I say back. Bright and early.


Elyse Cleveland said…
:o) Very nice my friend. Very nice.

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