Joshua watched his mother pouring water from the water bowl on her head into the barrel. Fetching water every night had been his chore until the accident.
The accident. He was playing football with his friends when one of them kicked it too high, too far. He went to fetch it and was hit by a car.
His mother had always been against him playing football. Not because she didn’t want him to but because of where they played the game. A small park near a busy thoroughfare. He remembered seeing the anguish on her face when she came to find him lying down helplessly on the ground, the murmurs of the one who went to call her, fading as he stared up into her terrified eyes. The tears on her face as they told her, he might not be able to walk.
For months, he lay down staring at her as she sponged him and dried him off. She fed and clothed him as an invalid. He didn’t see himself as a cripple. He didn’t think of himself as an invalid but anytime he wanted to do something, she’ll shout on him to stop.
Like when he wanted to learn how to sit up and she was worried he might further hurt his spine. He had to learn how to roll onto his stomach and prop himself on the bed stand and push himself to sit on the floor. He did that continuously until his arms were strong enough to support his entire body. He’d just roll and maneuver to sit down on the floor. Such a simple thing took him weeks.
Weeks in which she yelled at him to stop. She always saw the negative possibilities. What if he rolled and fell off the bed hitting his head or worse his spine hitting the hard wooden side of the bed. What if in turning he shifted his spinal vertebrae. There were so many “what if’s” with new ones thought of everyday but he always told her, “ma, let me try.”
He tried and pulled himself from his bed into a chair. He got better at it. He tried and pulled himself onto the verandah ledge so he could sit on it and stare at the sea shore which was 100 meters away. He always tried but one thing he wanted to do, she didn’t want to let him.
“Mama, I’ve told you to let me help you carry the water.”
“Carry the water how? You that cannot walk and have to depend on a chair to move around?” she responded a bit breathless from the climb up the hill where their house was. They lived on Amere hills, simply called Hilltop. The water pressure in the area wasn’t high enough so they had to walk down the valley to fetch water.
Mrs Ashong, knew how determined he was but fetching water was something she was never going to allow him to. She almost lost him. She won’t again.
Without a word, she turned and went out holding the bowl.
Joshua stared at her for a moment and wheeled himself to the entrance of the kitchen. He sank his teeth onto his lower lip, still thinking over what he was about to do. Making a sudden decision, he looked around and saw a gallon. Perfect. He put it on his lap and wheeled himself out.
He followed the quickly receding figure of his mum. Hoping she won’t turn back and see him. He was also hoping against hope that none of their neighbors will climb uphill and ask his mum to turn and look at him.
It was an early Sunday morning and those who were awake were in their homes preparing for church. Luckily, none of them was out yet.
Mrs Ashong walked to stand under a tall pipe and turned the faucet. She was thinking of what to prepare when she saw Joshua. She saw the gallon on his lap and wanted to shout at him. He was in the condition he was in because he wouldn’t listen.
“You’re coming to fetch water and you think you can wheel yourself up the hill?” she hissed.
“No ma,” he said with a smile. “You spend time fetching the water. I’m going to fetch water into this gallon so that by the time you return, it’ll be full.”
His mum stared at him for a moment. It did make sense.
“Okay. She finally said.
” Great. Bring more gallons when coming.”
That was the fastest Mrs Ashong had taken to fetch water and the first of many collaborations between she and her son.