Its probably just as well that we don’t all have the means to see what our future looks like. If we did, then some of our more challenging experiences might never have existed and therefore we would have become quite different people.
It is only when I look back upon my life, for I am now in middle years, that I can appreciate the challenges I have faced and recognise that they happen for a reason.
Life is a rich tapestry of colour and thread and it hangs for all to see, sometimes wavering, fluttering in the breeze and at other times fully open, its purpose clear and focussed.
I cannot quite put my finger on what it is that motivates me to write this story except that I believe it to be a creative expression of me through the art of words.
It is therefore dedicated to those I love.
As a small child I used to lie on my bed staring at the ceiling. I would trace small cracks along the wall imagining I was a tiny creature and the cracks were my highway to somewhere. I was never quite sure where I was going, but I followed them regardless.
Reflecting back to those days I think this was some kind of attachment response as I was able to lose myself completely in the cracks and become small and insignificant. Unseen and unknown and therefore invisible and non existent.
I must have been about three years old when my father told me I was adopted. He would always be the one to tuck me in at night and tell me stories and so I guess it was only right that he would be the one to tell me.
I can remember sitting in bed with my father perched on the edge saying that unlike other children I had been chosen to be their child and that by being chosen I was therefore special. He explained that as a family we would be having another special child this time a little baby boy.
I felt quite excited at the prospect of a baby brother and gladly went about the place telling everyone I saw that we were having a special baby and that unlike my mothers friend who had a baby in her tummy, our baby was being chosen.
I think that for a short period of time after being told about my adoption and prior to the arrival of my new chosen baby brother, I really did feel special and I reveled in the feeling.
My father was a teacher and my mother stayed home to look after my brother and I. We had traveled quite a long way on a train to collect my brother who was 3 years younger than me. I remember it seemed a forever journey but when we got to our destination I ran to see our newly chosen family member. I felt very close to him and loved him greatly. When he arrived home I remember being so very excited that I was constantly checking him to see how he was.
When my brother was 2 years old my father took us both to the school he taught at. It was the summer of 1962 and my father was tending the school farm which he set up as part of his Rural Studies class.
My brother and I ran about in the long grass and watched the chickens and rabbits in their pens. My father was cutting back the overgrown branches and bushes with a hand held bill hook and before any of us knew what was happening my chosen brother ran right into the sharp carbon steel blade as it sliced its way through the unwanted vegetation.
A bill hook is a very ancient hand tool the design of which has been unchanged for centuries. The blade has a slight curve at the end which makes it easier to hook loose branches. It was this curved tip that caught my brother in the right eye.
I remember my father screaming and scooping up his beautiful and injured boy into his arms. I felt bewildered, a 5 year old who didn’t know what to do or what to say or think, and it was at that moment that my whole life changed and in an instance I no longer felt special.
I sometimes wonder if my father felt he had violated the moral code of protecting children as he never got over his feelings of guilt which seemed to amplify his own personal emotional imbalances.
My brother spent a few weeks in the Bristol Eye Hospital and was extremely fortunate that although he lost 75% of the sight in his right eye, the eye itself was saved.
When he came out of hospital he was a very different child. It was almost as if he had been swopped for another very similar boy as his laughter and vitality seemed to have left him.
I can only assume that the impact of being hospitalized for several weeks at the age of 2 years might erode a child’s sense of security and belonging. It was only when I was older that I realised just how much this sense of security had indeed been undermined.
In his last few days in hospital and on his return home my brother suddenly became petrified of bath times. Previously at home, they had been such fun and laughter filled affairs, where we would get bathed together with a tub full of Matey bath bubble bath. But now this all changed and not only did we have separate baths but my brother would become very agitated as his bath time approached.
The bathroom in the hospital ward was a rather cold and unforgiving room with high ceilings and that dreadful smell of disinfectant. The bath was old with very deep sides so that a small 2 year old sitting in the water could probably not see over the rim. On the last day before coming home I went with my mother to the hospital and she offered to bath my brother as the nursing staff were concerned about his sudden agitation. It was only after some coaxing by my mother that the reason why became clear.
One of the nursing staff who had bathed my brother let the water run out of the bath with him still sitting there. The plumbing was noisy and the gurgling of the water as it was greedily sucked down the plug hole scared my brother. He cried out to her but she told him if he didn’t stop then he would be sucked down the plug hole with the water. Imagine that. My chosen brother being sucked down the plug hole, I suddenly hated the hospital and the nurses and wanted my brother home.
My parents put in a complaint to the ward sister and eventually the nurse in question was disciplined. I can’t imagine what would possess someone in a caring profession to terrorize a little boy who was placed into her care. It is really the lowest form of bullying and child abuse and I guess she did not expect that my brother would be articulate enough to tell our parents what had happened.
It took a long while for my brother to understand that he was far too big to disappear down the drain and so at each bath time my father would put his own hand over the plug hole to demonstrate to my brother that it was ok. Eventually my brother could put his own hand over the plug hole and the agitated bath times became, thankfully, a thing of the past.
My father had a strange habit of demonstrating how things were as I remember when I was quite small how he showed what it might be like if I got burned, by holding my hand very fleetingly against a light bulb that was on. Needless to say it was a great deterrent to stop me trying to reach items from the mantle piece over our coal fire.