For America, July 4th is Independence Day and a national holiday. For me it is a date carved in memory with a screwdriver when four words ripped the bottom out of my world, “We have your son…” I have told that story before here and have no intention of telling it again. As I was taught to say by the therapist dealing with the PTSD… that was then. This is now. July 4th 2014. My son’s fifth Re-Birthday, as he calls it.
Things have changed.
The clean shaven, white-collared young man now sports long hair and a beard of truly Biblical proportions. Because he can. He clowns, laughs, takes the mickey out of me (and everyone else he cares about) at every possible opportunity. Because he can. He laughs till he cries, and sometimes cries till he laughs; feeling emotions acutely, because he can. And for the same reason he chooses to work his body, mind and memory hard, to feed the wild birds in his garden so much they are totally unconcerned by his presence and almost unable to lift off, name his koi carp Simon and to crawl about on the floor with a camera in his hand. Why not? He’s busy… living.
The crawling thing was interesting the other day. Nick had taken himself out in the wheelchair with his camera, down the path by the stream in search of some nature shots. Nick cannot walk unaided and his sight is damaged, but that doesn’t stop him from seeing the world through fresh eyes… eyes that appreciate the detail, the colour, the vividness of the world around him. While he is continuing to work towards recovery, he has decided to waste no more time and dived back into life with a vengeance. Usually, these days, with a camera in his hand.
He called me after he had been out, to tell me about the number of people who had stopped to ask if he was okay. Now, me, as both Mum and carer, I can appreciate that and be thankful that so many stopped to check on the young man who had apparently abandoned his wheelchair in the middle of nowhere to crawl across the grass. He could, quite easily, have been in trouble and it is lovely to know people care enough to both notice and act. It is reassuring. I can also see how that could be a tad frustrating when you are about to press the shutter on a carefully composed shot. He got some good ones; while we walk around and view the world at eye level, he sees it from a child’s-eye viewpoint in the wheelchair and through a sense of wonder. And when he gets out of the chair and crawls across the grass, it is because he is seeing all the things we miss. All the things he would have missed once upon a time.
The past five years have thrown many things into question and many into high relief. Not least amongst them is the fact that things are not always what they seem. In the events we class as wonderful and happy may be the seeds of pain and heartache, just as great beauty and good may be born from seeming tragedy. We cannot know what will come from any moment, but we can shape the dull, dank clay of despair into an empty vessel fit and ready to hold hope and joy. And my son, handed a whole lump of clay five years ago today, is doing a pretty good job of that.
*There are five links in this article… five other pages that tell parts of the story… five candles; points of light for his re-birthday.*
**All photographs by Nick Verron… more on his Flickr page