Table tennis is a major part of my life. It was the only thing that made sense since my parents died in an auto crash. At least until I met the Simpsons. I was only two years old when my parents died, so I didn’t remember much about them, except the few things I was told in the foster home.
I had moved from one foster home to the other. My last foster parents before the Simpsons were so terrible with kids that I wondered why they had applied to take me in in the first place.
Mr. Reed was a bad-tempered drunk, while his wife hardly showed up at home. She worked as a bartender at a nightclub where Mr. Reed usually went to get drunk, and knock things around.
Sometimes, they both stay out all night, leaving me to fend myself.
Their absence did give me a lot of freedom to do things I never had the chance to do when I was with my last strict foster parents.
I started playing table tennis on the street while I was at the Reed’s, which was one thing I became very good at to the extent that people gathered to see me play.
I wasn’t going to school as the Reeds never bothered to ensure that I do. So whenever I left home, I do not go straight to school nor come back home straight from school. I spend my time playing tennis in different buildings owned by some gangs in the area.
I often go several hours playing table tennis, which helped me most of the time to forget about my hungry stomach.
The Simpsons had found me playing table tennis one day while my mates were studying in school. They were newlyweds enjoying themselves at the time. They took an interest in me, and my ability to play table tennis.
They asked where I lived, where my parents were, and why I was out there playing table tennis when I was supposed to be in school. They also wanted to know where I had learned to play so well.
They must have noticed how skinny and hungry I looked because they invited to come to eat with them at a small restaurant they were going for breakfast.
They watched me as I devoured the food hungrily like a wolf.
“Where did you say your parents are?” They asked once more.
“Dead,” I said with a mouthful of food.
“We are truly sorry,” they said genuinely.
“Who do you stay with?”
“I stay with the Reeds, my foster parents.”
“Where are they now?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug “Mr. Reed didn’t come home last night, and Mrs. Reed hardly does.”
“Do you mean you have been all by yourself since yesterday?”
I shrugged once more. I could not understand why it seemed so unbelievable to them.
They spoke quietly to each other while I ate on hungrily.
“We would like to write the foster service,” Mr. Simpson started after the brief discussion with his wife. “We don’t think the Reeds are looking after you properly.”
“When was the last time you ate anything?” Mrs. Simpson asked.
“Yesterday afternoon, before Mr. Reed went out.”
Mrs. Simpson covered her mouth in bewilderment. “Did you hear that, Brad?”
The Simpsons wrote the foster service as they had said, and they reported what they had found out about my foster home and parents.
It was during the service investigation that we found out that Mr. Reed had died in a fight he had initiated with a man that was getting down with his wife at the back of the club. Mrs. Reed had run away that night and not to be found again.
The Simpsons took me in. They treated me like their own. Like I was that kid they had been expecting for a long time, even though they had not been married for a long time. I ate as much as I was hungry, had beautiful clothes to cover myself and a good bed to sleep. It felt like I had just been born.
When the new school session began, the Simpsons enrolled me in a boarding school to give me a fresh start at schooling. It was a whole new experience for me.
I spent more time in boarding school and my holidays with them. I was always comfortable with whatever decision they made for me.
I made friends in my new school and started participating in various sports.
I joined the table tennis club, and they helped me brush up my ability. It wasn’t long before the coach noticed what I could do in the sport, so he gave me a lot of attention to assist me to become the best in the school. I started representing the school in High School Table Tennis Championship, which I won twice.
The second time qualified me for the Youth Regional Championship where I finished as a first runner-up, beaten by a slim point.
As a first runner-up, I still qualified for the Youth National Table Tennis Championship where I represented Houston region alongside Felix who edged me in the regional championship.
We had both qualified for the semifinal when we met again — this time I beat him to qualify for the finals.
And we also qualified to the finals as pairs for the men’s double.
Felix taught me some tricks to help me win in the finals. He was such a good sportsman and a good friend since we came for the competition.
I won the finals. This qualified me to represent the US in the Youth Olympics.
Also, winning the men’s double with Felix also qualified us to represent the US in the youth Olympics too.
There is no way I could tell the story of my life without mentioning the Simpsons many times. They had become the parents I never knew. And their extended family the family I never got to know or meet.
For me, table tennis comes first. But before table tennis is the Simpsons who changed my life for the better.