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Orphan

 

Confused,  I gazed up at him.

Then my dad said that word again,  … orphan.

What’s that,? 

Me and my brother were thrown out into the world before our time…

Is that what it means to be an orphan?

He winced, then looked away.

 

Feeling his pain, I hesitated.

He reached out and gently placed his hands on my shoulders.

What did you do wrong?

 A grimace snaked across his weathered face as he slowly shook his head.

We slept on a stone-cold basement floor that flooded every time it rained.

Starving, I ate garbage, or would steal food and run for my life,

So I wouldn’t be caught and beaten.

I visited the dump to see what clothes I could find,

Someone’s old shirt, a pair of worn shoes, or a pair of dirty pants with holes…

 

Sometime later, he told me his relatives cursed him and his little brother,

And cast them into the street like a loaf of moldy old bread,

To be picked apart by scavengers.

Only his merciful aunt took them in and did what she could to keep them safe,

Hiding them as best she could,

So they wouldn’t be separated and placed into a home for wayward boys.

Like my dad said, times were tough back then, only the strong survived. 

 

I couldn’t help asking, how did you survive?

My aunt stole food from her son’s grocery to feed us, whenever she could.

Abandon, me and my brother fought for whatever we got,

Rejected and despised, nothing came easily to two boys lost and alone.

Sadly, this wicked world holds little promise for forgotten children

Left to fend for themselves, considered an unwanted burden and nuisance

By most everyone who sees them, and invisible to the rest.

 

Tainted by the corruption all around him,

Dirty, defenseless, and dubious of his surroundings,

He wandered the streets at seven years old, looking for love,

Searching for a family to call his own.

 

Standing tall, feet planted firmly on the ground, 

Holding back a flood of tears,

My dad gazed down at me through what looked like

Hundred-year-old, melancholy eyes.

Then he bent down and picked me up with his large, heavy hands,

Squeezed me, then lovingly whispered in my ear,

You’re my only son, the keeper of my heart.

 

I clung to him, burying my face in the nape of his neck.

When did your parents leave you?

I was about your age when it happened.

But why?

He looked away with a long face. 

First my father died, then my mother succumb to a broken heart. 

That’s not fair…

He gave me a stern look. This world is neither fair …  nor just.

It’s a constant struggle, trouble is always coming our way.

Trembling, I pushed out my stubborn chin, holding back tears. 

Don’t worry my little man, I’ll always be here for you…

 

Sadly, he didn’t keep his promise.

Several years later he died in my arms of a heart attack on the kitchen floor,  

And left me floundering in a sea of doubt and self-pity,

To grieved to speak of the sorrow that utterly crushed my spirit.

The shameful mask that covered his face,

The day he bore his soul to me, will haunt me till the day I die.

It was the trodden down face of an orphan.

 

No man ever took more pleasure in loving his son than my dad.

He loved me heart and soul, holding back nothing. 

In his presence, all my fears were washed away.

My mentor and protector,

He showered me with love and devotion as only a father can;

The love he never got.

 

How did he live for so long without hope,

Roaming the streets hungry and wearing rags?

It’s more than I could bear.

For him to survive those early years was a testament to his enduring will to live,

And the mercy of a special few who struggled to help him in his time of need.

 

I know I’m foolish to ask the impossible,

But what I wouldn’t give to have been there for him.

Now, when I see an orphan, I see my dad,

Alone and lonely in a big bad world.

And I extend my hand with a comforting smile, thinking of him, 

Knowing that it’s the least I can do for a frightened little one in need.

 

 

 

All Rights Reserved, Bill Bitetti July 1, 2014.

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