I must be one of the luckiest Dads on Earth, I lost the use of my legs
and in return found my son.
Like millions of other parents I had been through the whole scenario
several times, trying to balance working to the best of my abilities
to give my family a superior quality of life against never being there
for birthday parties, school presentations, football matches, grazed
knees and a hundred other events so important to a child. How do you
explain to a five year old that if Daddy doesn’t go to work we can’t
pay our bills, buy food or put gas in the car, what do five year olds
care about income tax, insurance premiums and mortgage repayments when
there’s sandcastles to built and Lego robots to be assembled, all you
can do is try and be there when you can.
However, I was certainly guilty of being work obsessed then stupidly
wasting my limited leisure time in the pub, looking back why I wanted
to work all day with a group of blokes and then socialize with them
afterwards I’ll never know, but that’s what I did.
When I was in the house, my children were kept out of my way ‘Daddy’s
tired’ ‘Daddy’s been working hard’ ‘Daddy wants to watch the football’
Mum and the housemaids ensured when I was home …..I was ‘home alone’ I
could not even tell you what year my children were in at school, but
the housemaids probably could.
I was running my own company and the main contractor we worked for had
just went bust, I was grossly overweight, in very poor health,
stressed and heading for a heart attack when my body said ‘enough’
I was feeling hyper, my blood pressure was well into the danger zone,
my joints and lower back were a constant source of discomfort, I went
to bed early one night not feeling too good and woke up in Intensive
Care twelve days later with tubes sticking out of every orifice. The
prognosis was not good, advanced osteoarthritis, fibrositis, blood
cell imbalance, liver damage to list the main items, my system was in
recess and the doctors had implied I might not come out of the coma I
had been in, my family and friends had been gathered around expecting
me to die, I didn’t. Both my knees were locked and my left ankle and
foot were twisted down-over, the results of several seizures, even the
tiniest movement was agony
Seven months of treatment, blood transfusions, therapy and medication
and I was finally released from hospital unable to sit stand or walk
50kgs lighter and feeling surprisingly healthy. My company had folded,
my health insurance had run out and financially things were not good
but something ‘good’ did happen whilst I was in hospital. We were
restricted from using electrical devices, mobile phones, laptops etc.
so to while away the long hours of treatment my son and I played cards
and board games. Good old fashioned snakes and ladders, checkers,
monopoly etc. I bought a large pack of good quality colouring pencils
and we drew out new games on A3 paper. My son started modifying the
classics with Plants vs Zombies monopoly and Angry Birds draughts, we
played cards, ‘Uno’ ‘Fish’ ‘Snap’ and ‘Rummy’, and when I got home
from hospital we continued.
Now it was my turn to be waiting for my son to come home from ‘work’
or school in his case, I counted the minutes until he was home.
Luckily for me he was more than happy to sit for hour after hour not
just playing games but reading and writing as well. I had started
writing out my travel memoirs in hospital and now my son wanted to
copy what I was doing and write ‘stories’ as well.
With no restrictions like reality and life to draw on, his imagination
is totally unfettered, his vocabulary for an eight year old is amazing
and his stories can cover five hundred years in an instant. His take
on the Marie Celeste ghost ship includes scenes from the movie
Titanic, Robin Hood and his Merry Men escaped the Sheriff of
Nottingham time and time again on …..Jet-skis, Thomas Jefferson
invented electricity to make his air-conditioner work….there’s more…a
Eight months on and his enthusiasm hasn’t abated in the slightest and
we still sit for hours listening to the radio, playing games, drawing,
reading and writing, he has thought up cartoon characters Krispy
Skream….a Donut with huge shark like teeth that ‘goes around attacking
fat kids’ Red Hot Chilli that jumps into peoples food and makes it
peppery ‘then they have to run to the toilet’. His skill and artistry
with Lego bricks far surpasses mine and I am demoted to ‘brick sorter’
….so much for my previous title ‘Offshore Construction Manager’
My eight year old son is my constant companion, inspiration and best
mate in the whole world. He is big for his age, fit and very strong,
he has physically helped me get from being a bed-bound invalid into a
wheelchair, onto crutches and finally walking alone, albeit
unsteadily……a true reversal of roles if ever there was one.
I am embarking on a new life and a new career, built around my
physical limitations, I have just self-published my first book based
on travels and work in East Java, the first of a series. Financially
times are hard but my son never complains, we get by and when I say
‘things will get better’ he believes me implicitly and
He is like any other normal eight year old and certainly has his
‘moments’ especially where his teenage sister is concerned, but these
are easily overlooked.
I know it won’t last, the day will come when there are far more
interesting things for him to do in that big wide world out there than
helping his old man, until then I will savour every moment. I am so,
so lucky, I have been given the gift of my son’s love and friendship.
Dads, don’t wait until you are ‘Knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’
before discovering what really matters in this life…..time for your
children …..and your children’s time.