Day 2 of Holidays

Despite being on holiday, I still awoke exactly 6 hours after I went to bed, so I was walking along the cliff path with two dogs before 7 am, admiring the views. I love the promise and fresh start of a sunrise as well as the natural beauty, so it set me up nicely for the day ahead. Dog-walkers are just the friendliest people, I struck up so many conversations with strangers based around their dogs. If anyone was lonely and needed a reason to get out of the house and to meet new people, I would recommend dog ownership every time.

Sandown pier

When I got back to the house, both boys were still asleep, so I sat in the garden playing with the puppies and enjoying the views and memories that this house and garden bring me. When we came in the summer with my grandparents, we would often have a lunch of ham salad in the garden, which my sister and I would come back up from the beach for. As I liked neither ham nor salad as a child, I would have cold baked beans and grated cheese instead and I can remember my Granny telling me that I would turn into a baked bean as I ate so many of them! My sister and I would play on the  amusements on the seafront: we had a pact that whoever one on the penny falls – our game of choice – would have to share their winnings with the other. The trouble was that my sister never won anything, while I was pretty lucky. We would visit the shop on the way home and spend my winnings on chocolate, then sit under the dining room table to enjoy it secretly. Happy, carefree days, when we were secure and loved by our parents and grandparents in a place where it was a quick walk down the hill to the beach. I used to hover by the gate, waiting for someone to see where we lived , so that I could show off and to make them  jealous.

We had a lovely afternoon at a country show, overlooking the sea. As Joshua has rejected his wheelchair lately and objects so much to being in it that he has stamped the footplate off several times, we have listened to him so he walked around the show, but we were armed with our picnic rug so he could sit down on the grass wherever he wanted or needed to. We headed straight to the music stage where one of our favourite local bands were performing and we set up camp. As it became pretty hot at that time, Joshua lay down and chilled out. My husband and I took it in turns to look in tents and at stalls until he was ready to move on. We watched a dog agility act in the main ring but kept gravitating back to the music stage. We finished our afternoon out in the tea tent where, while I was fetching the refreshments over and my husband was watching a parade of vintage tractors, Joshua sat nicely at the tressle table. As I was coming over with the teas, I heard a lady ask him if the other seats were free or if she could join him with her two granddaughters? Of course, he just smiled at all three of them so I intervened and invited them to sit down opposite us. He was mesmerized by the teenaged girls opposite him and  their grandmother chatted away constantly about her family, until we had finished. Strangers often seem to want to share their life stories : the other morning while I was on the telephone to BT, the lady who was helping me to order broadband confided that she had suffered from domestic violence and had tried to take her own life once, I was not sure what to say, so I just listened as she seemed to want to talk. I find that if people want to talk, I try to take the time to listen.

We had a good day out and left around 4.30 pm when the dark clouds started to look threatening. The puppies, who had been left at home, were delighted to see us back again and I spent time with them in the garden again, so that they could burn off their boundless energy. It is a good feeling knowing that we have many more days ahead of us, just pleasing ourselves what we do, with no particular schedule.

Stepping Back in Time

I had a nostalgic morning yesterday; I have had our video tapes transferred onto DVDs and I finally dared to watch ‘Christmas 2001’, Joshua’s first Christmas. I expected to get upset by the images from 17 years ago but I was transfixed by the young family that I saw on the television screen:

The most obvious thing was what an enormous but happy baby Joshua was: he grinned and goggled at the camera constantly with chubby, rosy cheeks and bright blue sparkly eyes. I was absorbed as I watched him attempt to open parcels for the first time ever and then loved how engaged he was with the process, much more than he is now! He sat in an empty cardboard box, giggling his head off. He was given push along walker toys as he was standing but not walking at 9 months old, and I was mesmorised to see him grip the handle with both hands, whereas nowadays his right hand does not work at all. I was surprised at how vocal my baby was with his hiya and dadada noises,  I had forgotten that too.

This was Joshua pre-epilepsy, as his seizures began in earnest when he was 4 years old, although I thought that I detected an arm twitch on the film. So then it made me sad, thinking of all that epilepsy had robbed him, and  us, of.

We were all younger, slimmer and more hopeful on this film. Our baby boy, despite his ‘devastating brain damage’ diagnosis was talking, standing, responded to his name, using both hands and could clearly see too. We were in a relieved, delighted bubble and this seemed like a ‘normal’ family Christmas. We had no idea , at that stage, what was going to follow and the roller coaster ride that we were about to take.

It was heartwarming to see images and hear the voices of both of Joshua’s grandfather’s who are no longer here. My Dad’s reassuring, quiet presence was there in the background and took my breath away. My father in law was a more prominent voice on the film, but he was taking real pleasure in his grandson’s first Christmas and provided a running commentary to the morning. Our three nieces were on the DVD, all little girls, who have now all blossomed into young women, all with degrees, working hard in their chosen careers and sharing their lives with partners, so I loved watching them act out ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ for the assembled audience!

I enjoyed watching how our dog at the time, allowed Joshua to stroke her and forgave him from grabbing handfuls of her fur. Honey was the mother of our current dog and he has become just like his mum. He has not watched the toddler grow up and learn to walk, as Joshua was 3.5 when Max was born, but he has shared the majority of his life with him.

So it was a real trip down memory lane; it was 3 hours long, moving beyond Christmas to Joshua ‘s first holiday in Las Vegas and his first birthday party. I sat glued to the television for the first hour or so, but then I had it as background to my chores, loving what I saw as I breezed in and out, taking me right back to those early days. Joshua clearly dis not recognise any of the characters in this film, how could he relate to the chubby baby on screen or his young, slim parents? I know  that I will be watching it again and again, so it was a perfect gift to myself.