Saturday, 20 September 2008

Reality Check

Over the last couple of weeks three events have invaded my psyche, and having come together, had a marked impact on the way I am thinking about life at the moment.

A couple of Saturdays ago my son came home having just arrived at the tail end of a dreadful car accident, where, we found out later a well-known lady from our village had been killed outright and her daughter, a mum of a houseful of teenagers, left very ill in hospital, prognosis not known.

I thought at the time that could easily have been my son, he missed it be a few seconds, daughter and I, husband and I, any other member of my family. The driver was not doing anything wrong, just driving along one of the main roads into the village when a horsebox and Landover crossed a crossroad out of control and ploughed their car through a wall opposite.

The following week at some point I got into the office and chatted to a colleague outside the ladies loo – as you do – when she said “wasn’t that terrible about Joe?” It transpired that a well known head teacher whom I have worked with over the years, took early retirement in July to spend time travelling with his wife, came back at the end of August from a family holiday, was ill, diagnosed on the Tuesday with lung cancer and died on Sunday. The week before the end of term he was with us at another colleague’s retirement and looked a picture of health and was so looking forward to and excited about the future.

Yesterday I was helping the head teacher carry out a self assessment in a special school. She always shows me round when I get there, which is only once or twice a year. I love to see the stuff they are doing, it is always so amazing. She was telling me about new touch screens – and they are good, when one of the teachers said that XXX was using one we should go and see him. We went into a tiny room, a boy of about 15 was strapped into a chair eyes fixed intently on a screen. A butterfly was tracking diagonally across the screen, when it got to the corner it stopped and faded, a fish replaced the butterfly’s starting position. After about twenty seconds the boy managed enough concentration and coordinated movement to dab at the screen to touch the fish which started that tracking across the screen. We watched and encouraged him for a couple of minutes. He knew I was there talking to him, he looked at me several times obviously knowing I was different to the usual group of people around him. He seemed to take pleasure in showing me what he could do, and clearly knew when the games ended because we saw a very different movement to start it again. I felt quite privileged to be there and see his independence and success.

As I said in the first paragraph these things have made an impression on me. Any of my family could have been on that road at that moment – we all travel it, in various combinations of family or alone most days. I am very saddened by these deaths of both people though not particularly close to either, they are the very fabric of the place we live.

I am planning on taking early retirement, in the not too distant future and travelling... oh dear :-)

I have children – who mostly now have children – and they are fit, healthy and able in mind and body, independent people, with grand children on the same path. Whoever we are I am sure that as parents our biggest wish is to see our children grown, happy, settled with a family, knowing the joy that that has already brought to ourselves.
To me, even though it is a wonderful achievement, it seems so sad to see a young man, who should have the world at his feet, strapped in a chair to make sure he stays upright, tracking a butterfly across the screen. I felt and still feel quite humbled.

I am just so lucky, I have a wonderful family, home, friends, freedom to drive to work,in fact virtually anywhere, walk the dogs, be home alone to carry out every day chores, plan my time, my work, courses, resources etc. I can do more or less whatever I want to do any time I want to do it - within normal constraints of being part of a family and working. Two of the people mentioned about have died and the last one will never know this sort of freedom or independence.

It is Saturday and I am not at work, I got up early, spent an hour in Second Life over coffee and toast, started the laundry, chatted to daughter, received a phone call and went off with a friend on a treasure hunt round local village yard sale day :-)

I returned home, did shopping, more laundry, e-mails, added a few words to a wiki, and am cleaning the house between other things. I just cut some lavender flowers to put in a dish in the house, scratched my leg on a log and am bleeding... and the blood running down onto my foot somehow seems proof that I am really here. I am still here at the moment and still in control of my life after the not so gentle reminders of our frailty of life over the last fortnight ...

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