Children Christianity/Religion Medical/Technical Social

The Lesson of Sonny

Among the most exciting events of my life were the births of my children. To this day, when I hold a new born child I am astounded at such a miracle. The bones in his head are soft, yet, and flexible, made for the moment of his grand entrance; they move and slide so that he may come… And here is the child, finished, complete even to infinitesimal fingernails and downy eyelashes.

Sometimes things go awry. Not all is well and there is sadness in the delivery room. A couple of articles I read earlier today reminded me of Sonny, a child from my early years. The following is taken from my book, Road Tales.

A certain family was associated with our church but never attended any of the services. A special child had been born to them–my parents tenderly referred to him as a "water-head baby." His name was Sonny, and at first, I was mystified when I heard the adults say his mother had never held him, later understanding that the monstrous size of his head made it impossible for anyone to hold him. Mama and Daddy made calls on this family but had determined that we children were not to go. I wanted to, but Mama said, "No. You do not need to go there."

One evening, someone was moving a piano, and several of the men of the church were helping with the job. Daddy followed the truck in our car, and he let Donna and me go with him, while Junior stayed home with Mama. As the driver turned a corner, the truck leaned precariously, and the piano lurched free, crashing into the street. It was a predicament, as can be imagined, and someone had to make telephone calls. We were close to Sonny's house, so Daddy drove there, parked, and got out of the car.

Donna and I got out, too, and followed Daddy into the house. He was so taken up with the piano business that I'm not sure he recalled that we children had never seen Sonny. Anyway, I think it was Mother who was most concerned about the impression this would make on our young minds.

Sonny lay on a bed in the living room–a six-year-old child with perfectly formed torso, arms and legs. From the neck down, he appeared normal. His head was gargantuan, a fifty-inch globe, flattened on the bottom where it lay on the bed, turned sideways to look at us as we gawked at him. His eyes, nose, and mouth were positioned together, and were of normal proportions. His eyes were brown and returned our gaping stare.

My mom was right; it was a stunning blow to a juvenile mind, a rigid vision still etched into my now mature brain. I have seen other hydrocephalic children since then, but none with heads even approaching the massive size of Sonny's. An ugly door opened for me that night, a life-size opening that stretched far down a dark hall where guttering candles flicker and where chilly air blows. I glimpsed dim shadows of the inevitable and had a momentary view of life's corridor of sadness and unpredictability: I grew up a bit that evening.

When we left Sonny's house and went into the unlit night, I believe I had grasped a slight understanding of the treacherous human way and of my own vulnerability.

I was right in my insight, of course, and today I understand even better. A slight aberration in the development of the embryo within my belly, and a "Sonny" comes forth, or a child with a twisted leg, a missing ear, or a muted mouth. At any moment, an imbalance of chemicals in my finely tuned body may change me into a raving maniac. The development of twists and tangles in my brain conceivably could take away memory, then my reasoning processes, and finally my most basic living skills.

Mercy is in order.

Tags: hydrocephalic, hydrocephalic+children, childbirth

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 81 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 64 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

18 replies on “The Lesson of Sonny”

Paul, thank you for coming by and leaving this insightful post. You are a perceptive person to be able to understand that difficulties as you were growing up contributed to your excellence today.

Please stay in touch with me.


When I was younger, I used to go the local market with my mum. I always used to see a woman with a partially disfigured face. I wasn’t scared of her; what scared me was that she always hid away from herself. I always wanted to go up to her and ask her about it; but I guess that’s the confidence you have when your six years old, eh? Being bullied as a youngster, I knew that feeling of hiding yourself away.

Even at a young age, the incident you described can change your perception of things. Yet experiences at such an early age help you build your character too. I may have been a taunted child, and an outcast teen; but I would never change that for the world. It made me who I am; and I am very proud of who I am.

Also Bear, that was a very thoughtful post.


“I was right in my insight, of course, and today I understand even better. A slight aberration in the development of the embryo within my belly, and a “Sonny” comes forth, or a child with a twisted leg, a missing ear, or a muted mouth.”

It never ceases to amaze me how fragile we all actually are.

Anecdotally, as a young man I was lithe, muscular and downright powerful. A good tennis player, a competition swimmer and a champion judoka. A year or so later I was a hunky, chunky foundry worker who could toss huge hunks of molten metal easily. I used to ride and dance and do anything I desired, practically.

An invisible disease and later, a tiny clot showed me just how vulnerable I am. A cane is my constant companion just so I might hobble from room to room, and I carry a host of medications everywhere I go, just to stay alive.

I have seen the great layed low by such seemingly insignificant things. I have seen the most commonplace of occurrances (a birth) become complete devastation to members of my family.

To anyone reading this: Cherish your life. The very fact that you’re alive. And if you are healthy, do WHATEVER it takes to maintain that. Every second is a gift. Every minute an experience to be savored. Live and be happy. Live and be thankful. But most of all…live.



I grew up the 3rd oldest child of 8; four boys and four girls. My sister, who was one less than a year younger than I had problems at birth. Later she was transferred to a children’s hospital and that was where I first heard the term “water baby”. I was about five years old and your description of Sonny made me recall the young boy I saw…except that this little guy was all smiles and the friendliest tyke I’d ever seen…


Daniel, of course I am unable to know the depth of your difficulty, but I want to encourage you to be a strong, honest and god-fearing young man. It is especially important to be honest with yourself, and to take responsibility for your own actions. That principle will never lead you wrong. The internet can be a very dangerous place, especially for young people, and it is possibly right that you will not be here any longer. The chances are that at a later time in your life, you will again have access here.

I am sad, and wish you every blessing.



yah it is fine but i do not think i can not evea read your blog again because i will be grounded for life from the computer because my principal is goin to call my house so if u need me send me an email


First sentence, Daniel: “Among the most exciting events of my life were the births of my children.”

You are quite young, Daniel, so perhaps that is why that sentence is puzzling to you. Maybe you have only heard of the difficulties and pain of childbirth, I’m not sure. To be quite honest, there is a fair amount of that, but the joy of bringing one’s own child into the world far exceeds the pain that is involved.

Not clear yet? Let me know.


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