The Story of Fish Lips

bruce gerencser 1971

Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade, 1971-72

The year is 1972.

I am a ninth grader at Central Jr High in Findlay , Ohio.

I am a typical boy.

The need to prove I am one of the guys is important to me.

I want to fit in.

I want to be part of the club.

The retards have a classroom in our building.

You know who they are.

The freaks.

The morons,

The half-wits.

A wonderful opportunity  to prove that I belong.

Fish Lips.

That’s what we called him.

He had big lips liked Mr. Limpet.

Every day he wore a tin sheriff’s badge and carried a toy gun.

No post-9-11 worries in 1972.

Why do the retard’s parents send him to school like that?

Don’t they know boys like me lurk in the hallways looking for opportunities to mock and harass their son?

And so I did.

I mocked  him and made life miserable for Fish Lips.

So did other boys, but I am the boy I remember.

I was part of the group now.

I hope Fish Lips didn’t mind being the price of admission.

It is 1989.

I am 32 years old now.

I have three children.

I am the pastor of a thriving Baptist Church.

My wife is pregnant with our fourth child.

Our red headed daughter was born on September 1st.

Our first girl.

We are so excited to finally have a girl.

It was not long before we realized something wasn’t quite right with our daughter.

The doctor sent us to University Hospital in Columbus.

A genetic test…

We didn’t need the results.

We already knew…

Our daughter had Down Syndrome.

Her features were mild and the doctor missed all the signs.

We found out she had Down’s the day our second daughter was born.

I had a mentally handicapped child.

All of a sudden I had flashback to 1972.

Visions of a hateful boy persecuting the mentally handicapped, all because he wanted to belong.

I thought of what I would do to that boy if he did what he did then to my daughter now.

I wept.

I couldn’t undo what I did.

But I could make sure I am never that boy again.

The least of these deserve my protection and care.

They deserve to be who they are without worrying about a boy with something to prove.

I am glad that boy died in 1989.

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3 Comments

  1. Doug B

    Very powerful post, Bruce. Honestly, sometimes I feel like Fish Lips. Other times I feel like his persecutor. Constructive criticism is a good thing. Hateful bullying is not. Ever. How easy to mistake the latter for the former. I try to think hard about every post I write and comment I answer.

    Reply
  2. Troy

    I hesitate to critique your bullying but if he had lips like Mr Limpet he had Don Knott’s lips (since in the movie the fish has some of Don Knott’s features in particular his lips and eyes), of course that isn’t exactly a compliment either.
    After I saw a picture of your daughter it seemed she may have the mosaic variant of Down’s syndrome. Her physical symptoms are much less pronounced than usual.

    Reply
  3. gimpi1

    You were a child, Bruce. You’ve since grown up. You’ve learned. That’s what we do as we grow. I’m proud of you that you’ve grown enough to accept that your actions in the past were wrong. Your daughter will always have you as a father to be her advocate, and You’ll do a great job of that.

    Reply

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