I remember a defining moment from my childhood. It helped to shape my relationship with my father and mother.
“That’s the end of the announcements, children. I’m sure you’ll all be happy to hear that it’s now time to go home! Quiet now! I said quiet! Before you go could I just ask Graham Phoenix to stay behind till everyone’s gone? Quiet! You can all go now.”
What the hell! What have I done now? What’s that all about? Oh hell, I’m in trouble now and I don’t even know what for. I’ve to sit here in the hall while all the other kids fight their way out to go home.
“Ouch, don’t kick my foot as you push past, it hurts you know.”
I’ve only just come back to school and I’m in trouble. I hate this place. I hate school. It’s nothing but trouble here. Nothing I do is ever good enough. They always want more, especially Mr Glassey—speccy four eyes. That bloody headmaster who wants to see me after, he’s always getting on my case. What the hell does he want now? I can’t think of anything, except being alive—the bastard.
I’ve been away for weeks and this is what happens when I get back. It was so much better being in hospital. I could just lie there and enjoy the attention I got from everyone, especially the nurses. They were super, always asking how I was, always telling me I was such a brave boy. I loved that.
“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.” They kept singing. I can’t get that song out of my brain. I wish I had one now that I could hold on to while I just sit here as others jeer at me.
“Up yours too, Hannigan, you’re such a goody, goody! Old speccy four eyes doesn’t even know you exist. To hell with you.”
I wish they would just leave me alone, I wish I could just go back to the hospital.
It hurt. It hurt a lot after the operation but that soon disappeared. I suppose I just got used to it. It was just there. I loved it when the doctor used to come and see me with his marker pen. He would look at my foot and draw a line round the dried blood that had soaked through the plaster. Then one day he came and the blood had not gone past yesterday’s line.
“I think it’s healing up nicely.” He said, smiling at me.
I was doing everything right. I felt quite proud of myself. The nurses looked pleased and told me how well I was doing and that I would soon be able to go home.
Oh! That’s not exactly what I wanted!
It’s so nice being here away from home, I feel special. My dad comes to see me and brings me presents—that’s not what he usually does. The other day he had been away to Holland and he brought me a pair of wooden clogs to wear. They are funny shoes carved out of wood, I’m not sure I’ll ever get them on my feet, but they will be nice to hang on the wall. They will be reminder that my dad thought of me. Last week he brought me a nice pen set. They are a lovely red colour and they sit in a stand that I can put on my desk at home. I’m not sure what I’ll use them for, they’re too nice to just do homework with.
The best is when mum comes to see me. She sits and strokes my hair. She tells me how much she misses me. That’s funny because I never get that at home. She is always so busy. I’m never sure if she notices I’m there. That is unless I have done something naughty, then I get it. Ouch! I can still feel the last time she smacked me with the clothes brush, it hurt!
Of course that always happens when Norman teases me. I hate that so much. He drives me crazy.
“Who’s got a lovely red car then? I think I would enjoy the red one a lot better.” He once said to me.
“Shut it, you, you don’t even play with cars any more, you’re too old.”
“No, but I like the red one. It needs to burn, to crash and catch fire. Here I’ll take it and crash it.” He slid forward and grabbed the car from me.
“Leave it alone, go and plonk your banjo, or something, stop messing with my toys.” My voice started to rise.
“It’s alright, it’ll be a great crash, here I’ll sort it out for you.”
“Stop it. Give it back. Stop doing that. I want it back.”
“Don’t be such a crybaby. This is fun. Just shut up and let me get on with it.” He was smashing my car into the wall, again and again.
“Give it back! Give it back! I’ll tell mum you took it off me.”
“Oh yes you would wouldn’t you. Telling tales on me, you’re good at that. Just run off to mummy and tell her what a nasty brother I am. Cowardy custard.”
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You’re always teasing me! I hate you!” I wanted to scream.
“No you don’t you’re just scared you won’t get your way. Well you do what I say here. I’m your big bro and I am in charge.” He shoved me back.
“No you’re not! No you’re not! I want my car back give me my car back! Give it me back! Give it me back!”
“You have to come and get it, get it off me. Come on, see if you can get it.”
“Come here, give it to me, let me have it back! Give it me back! Give it back! Stop that! You’re just a big bully!” I was screaming and shouting.
Mum burst into the room because of all the noise. She seems to time it so she catches me shouting and pushing. Norman gives me the car and looks innocent. I am bursting with anger and find it difficult to calm down.
“He started it. He was teasing me. It wasn’t me.”
“Graham, be quiet. I’ve told you before, you need to play nicely. Stop all this noise or I’ll tell your dad when he gets home. He won’t like to hear that you’ve been shouting and screaming again. Why can’t you just be told to stop this. Now just be quiet, I’ve to get the supper ready for all of you. Just let me get on with it in peace, will you?”
The anger pounded away inside me while Norman just smiled and went back to strumming his banjo. He was the picture of innocence. Why was it always me who got told off? Why did I always catch it?
She was lovely sitting there next to my bed. She told me that I was her special baby and that she would always love me. She could not do enough for me. Sitting there she had a sad look in her eyes as if she had done something wrong and she had to make up for it. She would look at my foot and stroke the plaster and sigh. Then she would turn and smile at me.
“It’s all going to be alright you know. It’ll be much better than last time, you’ll see. You’re much stronger now. Your foot will look more normal. It’ll be alright now.”
The last time was when I was five. I was lonely in the hospital. I missed home. I felt abandoned. What was happening scared me, it confused me. Why did this have to happen?
I hated it when I got home. I had a plaster cast on my foot and leg with a rubber heel stuck underneath so I could walk. I had crutches to help me to walk, but I found it difficult. I had no strength in my leg and it hurt to put weight onto my foot.
The worst thing was that everyone kept telling me that it would be alright now. It wasn’t! What did they know? They didn’t have to go through the operation. They didn’t have to be cut up! They didn’t have to lie in hospital and wonder why they were left on their own. What do they know?
They all kept looking at me and helping me. I know I want people to listen to me but not stare at me all the time.
We were in the back room, the smart room that we were never allowed to play in. We weren’t even allowed to go in there on our own. The room was clean and tidy. They had moved the furniture back and everyone was sitting around the edge.
“Come on, Graham, you can do it. You know you can. Just give your crutches to mum and walk across to me.”
“Do I have to, dad? I don’t feel safe without my crutches. I’m sure I will fall.”
“Yes, come on, it will be alright. You’re strong now, you can do it.”
I did, because I always ended up doing what dad wanted. So did everyone else. He was the boss and he always had the last word.
He didn’t seem like a bully but it was the same as with the bullies at school. They always won, so did dad.
He just knew that he was right. I suppose he was, he was old enough. I am sure I didn’t know better than him, I was only a little lad. He knew better than anyone. He knew that we should listen to him and do what he wanted. It was for our benefit.
“I only want what’s best for you.” He would say.
That’s what he always told us.
“It’s for your own good.”
I was useless. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what was good for me. I just had to listen to him. It was so frustrating. It was like I didn’t know myself, I didn’t know what I wanted. Maybe I didn’t want to know what was good for me. Maybe I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.
I remember when I got so angry with dad that I got a good telling off. We were up at Grannie’s house by the sea. It was our summer holiday every year to go and visit the two Grannies. One lived in the city and the other lived out by the sea.
I was playing near the car by the rocks. I loved it there. I loved clambering around on the rocks, splashing in the rock pools and chasing the little crabs. I heard the car engine start and saw the car start to move. Oh gosh! Dad was going without me!
“Stop, stop, don’t leave me behind!” I screamed.
I ran to the car and started hitting it, trying to stop the car.
“What are you doing, Graham? Leave the car alone! Don’t be so silly of course I am not leaving. You can be so stupid sometimes.” Dad shouted leaning out of the window. He, as always, was being reasonable.
I felt so lonely at that point, so unimportant.
It was so nice in the hospital and now I have to come to this.
Where is everyone, they have all gone and I’m still here on my own. Where’s old speccy? What on earth have I done? I want to go home, or at least get out of here. I better not not move or I’ll just get into more trouble. Oh please hurry, I want to get it over with.
“Phoenix, what are you doing here?” the voice came from the doorway.
Why did Mr Glassey have his coat on, he looks like he is going home! I don’t understand what is going on.
“You told to me stay behind, sir, after everyone had gone. I’m still here, sir, I didn’t move, I promise.”
“Don’t be silly, boy, I just wanted you to be safe when they all left. I know what it’s like with crutches. I didn’t want you to get knocked over. Now get on home and don’t be so silly again. Watch how you go though.”
Image Credit: Flickr/OIST (Creative Commons)