A blog to help raise money for the Alison Bereavement Society
Well Sunday 5th April was a good day. I made it from the edge of the bed to the garden chair. Sat for a while covered in blankets and was driven out buy Husband in the car to look at the daffodils at the side of the road. I now know how it feels to be ninety nine a hundred. I also now know why the elderly don’t like to drive fast. Going fast in a car takes energy, just to hold yourself still as the car speeds around corners. This, believe it or not, makes you tired. I am not thankful for this knowledge.
How are you ? I hear you ask. Well let me tell you. One minute you feel normal and have a conversation with your sister who sends you videos of wild boar roaming the streets of Padova and the next minute you are in bed nursing an aching chest.
Also, I had made a promise to myself not to watch the news but curiosity got the better of me last night and I watched some. What a harrowing time for the world and its human occupants. I am so sorry for everyone.
The good news is that my fundraiser has now made £600! How good is that! Which means that when I get back on my feet I can keep fundraising and putting the money to good use. But don’t click on the link just yet, stay with me a while. I have a story.
Not watching the news is a wonderful way of putting on ‘blinkers’ to help protect the mental health of the household. Everyone has imaginary blinkers, they shield you from seeing things that make you feel afraid. It’s up to you whether you put them on or not.
Lots of horses wear blinkers, for good reason. Which reminds me of when a horse broke our house due to not wearing his blinkers. This happened a long time ago.
When I think back to my childhood, it is divided with a marker. The time before my brother Steven was hit by a car on the way to school, which left him physically and mentally disabled, and the time that came after my brother Steven was hit by car, on the way to school, which left him physically and mentally disabled. So life has always been divided with; before Steven’s accident and after Steven’s accident. BSA and ASA, if you like acronyms. I never use acronyms.
I can’t remember exactly when the horse broke our house, the precise date, but I was young and it was certainly after Steven’s accident. We lived in a red brick farm house surrounded by fields and stables, barns, and outbuildings and a huge riding school that had a heavy door that almost took sister Rebecca’s thumb off. It was the perfect place to bring up six children. Five girls and one boy, Steven.
He was a wonderful, kind brother. Steven. He was gentle and always up for a game of rolling down the hill or playing chase around the sofa. And when he got a scalextric set for Christmas, he let me share. He had big blue eyes and thick dark hair, olive skin and a wide smile.
It’s not easy to write about what happened to Steven that morning when his life was changed forever. I know there are some people who may be reading this and have by now closed the tab because they can’t face remembering what happened to his beautiful twelve year old body as it got thrown up into the air on the A59 and then found it’s way back to the road again. Head first. Whilst on his way to catch the school bus. He had been hit by an off duty police officer. He was on his way home in his own car.
I had been eating a hard boiled egg at the breakfast table and squashing the yolk into the toasted soldier with the back of my spoon when my sister Marianne ran through the kitchen door, looking up and crying to my dad. It’s Steven, she said. He is on the road.
My father, ran out of the house and vaulted over the stone wall putting his hands to the left and swinging his feet the right. I watched him through the kitchen window. He ran up the small lane that connected our home to the A59 dual carriage way in just his socks. I carried on eating my egg that stuck in my throat.
After the tears and crying with confusion in the kitchen I wandered off to find my sister Deborah with Marianne in our parents’ bedroom.
Did Steven have blood coming out of his ears Deborah asked Marianne? Did you see blood in his ears? Marianne cried. I think so, yes. I don’t know, I can’t be sure. I listened to them and played with a hairbrush that was sat on top of the white fireplace. Well, that means that he will probably be brain damaged, said Deborah. And when he was lying on the road were his eyes opened or closed? Did he blink? Asked Deborah. His eyes were closed said Marianne. Closed. Well that means he isn’t dead then, said Deb. How do you know that I asked her? I just do, she said, I saw it on the TV, if there is blood coming out of the ears it’s serious. But don’t you worry Mary, ok. Go and play. Go and play.
So I left the house, crossed the drive and went to talk to Paula in the tack room. She was so cool, Paula. She managed the livery stables. I told her whilst looking at the bright ribbons of the rosettes hanging against the dust on the white stable wall, my brother has been run over by a car.
I hope he is OK, she said. He will be fine I’m sure, she said. Do you know if he is ok, she asked?
I think he has a broken leg and blood in his ear, I reply. There is a box of Mars bars on the corner of the windowsill, left over from the last horse show. I want one.
Paula looked at me. She was only about 20. She drove a motorbike, wore a leather jacket with tassels, smoked thin rolled cigarettes and smelt of petunia oil. She stank. Do you want to help me mix the sugar beet and feed the horses? I looked at her narrow face, her silk straight dark hair and the minute silver stud in her nostril. I admired the cigarette smoke as it streamed thick and curling from her thin nose. Yes, ok, I said, and off we went to feed the horses.
The morning following Steven’s accident, the phone didn’t stop ringing. Was he alright, people asked? They had heard it on the news, they said. Was he dead, they asked? I heard my mum talk into the phone and she told them that he had died, and that he had been brought back. Resuscitated. This had happened to him twice. She kept saying, he’s a fighter. He’s a little fighter. He is so, so strong. And as soon as she replaced the receiver the phone would trill again. Ring ring ring ring…….
I would sit on the stairs picking at the wool carpet, out of sight and listen to my mother’s soft voice. We just have to keep praying, she said. We just have to keep praying that he will be pull through. He’s a fighter. She sounded so calm. She wasn’t racing around howling and throwing her arms in the air, as you might imagine one would on finding out their only son, not yet a teenager, has been hit by a car that has left him with a broken skull and shattered bones and been resuscitated, twice. No. She was calm.
And that was the day that put the marker in my childhood. All that was wonderful was now behind us.
Just like that, a whole world changed. Everything went from good to bad. Nothing was ever the same again. Not that I can really remember that much up until that point other than, riding bareback over stubble fields, skiing down a hill and laughing at my frozen gloves and watching my dad dig and build a swimming pool and engraving my name in the setting cement between two stone flags, on his instruction. Put your name and the date, Mary, he said. And I did. Mary Caddick I etched with a twig into the setting concrete, 1976. And Steven wrote his name, too. We all did, I think. That was the year of a fantastic heatwave and family and friends were getting tired of lying around in the field, so Dad built us all a pool to keep cool.
My brother Steven was in a coma for months and moved from Ormskirk to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t allowed to go and see him or take him sweets. I wanted to see he was ok, now that he had come back from being dead, twice. But I wasn’t allowed. I missed him. When my nana Warburton went to see him in Ormskirk hospital, I was excited that she would come back with some happy news. But she just stood in the corner of the kitchen crying into her thin handkerchief. What’s up Nana I asked her? She looked at her sister, my Aunty Dot. Oh Dot, she said, his head was like a balloon.
A balloon, I think. That’s strange. I thought of my brother in a hospital bed and in place of his head and beautiful face, was a red balloon attached to his body. With a ribbon. That didn’t make much sense. I left them to their tears and embraces. And tried to figure it out. But I couldn’t.
When I finally got to visit my brother it was many months later – I don’t know how many -and he was in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I walked down a blue corridor and was so excited, I was going to see Steven. I saw two women walking towards us, both holding on to each other crying. It looked a very sad thing to see, two women crying together. Maybe they have got cancer, I thought. That must be what has made them both very sad at the very same time. I knew that cancer was something to be sad about, but that was all.
When I got to see Steven he was in a ward and he was awake. I never saw him in his coma. I never saw my dad put headphones to his ears and play him cassettes of harp music and another recorded tape of Liverpool football players who had all recorded messages of support and encouragement for Steven, to wake him up. Which had worked its magic. I got to see my brother only when he was up and awake and ready to face the world.
But when I looked at him he didn’t quite look back at me. I said hello and gave him a hug but he just dribbled. My mum was trying to feed him scrambled eggs. Hello Steven. Hello, it’s me Mary. I wanted him to look at me and smile but he didn’t. He sniffed as he tried to swallow some of his breakfast. I began to cry. This isn’t like him. He was changed. He was different. He had a huge white cast on his left leg and his arm was contracted to the side of his body in a spasm. He had suffered damage to his brain with the impact of his accident and his big blue eyes were sunken with dark shadows under them. My Aunty was there and she comforted me. I know it’s hard, she said, but he will get better. He has to learn to walk again. She took me outside. And talk? I asked her. He didn’t say, hello. Yes, she said, he has to learn to do everything, all over again. This was alarming and, this was the reality of the rest of his life. Damaged. Disabled. Altered. Hurt.
A few years later, when a horse broke our house, I wasn’t alarmed. The horse’s owner, a lady with comically thick face make up, who wore large tinted glasses which made her eyes look like they were swimming away from you, was the reason behind the catastrophe. She had tacked her horse up to a trap in the stable yard, and was training it to get used to bearing the weight.
The thundering sound of the hooves that came galloping towards the house away from the yard as it tried to bolt from the contraption behind him, didn’t frighten me. It made me wonder what was going on but I wasn’t afraid. She followed the horse waving and screaming with her arms in the air.
And when the house shook with the impact of the carriage as it flung into the corner of the house where the washing machine was kept, and we heard snapping wood and neighing and bricks falling. That didn’t alarm me, either. No.
What frightened me was that the woman, who was a skilled horse person, who had been talking for months about introducing her beautiful bay horse to a trap, it was she, the owner of the four legged beast who almost brought down the side of the house, she, had forgotten to put the blinkers on him. That’s what had frightened me.
Blinkers first, then the rest of the tack and then the contraption to be pulled. Everyone knows that.
But she had forgotten to put them on.
That is what scared me the most. That one person can be so responsible for the destruction and pain and suffering of one animal, one side of the house. One young boy on his way to school. It just takes one person. One decision. One slip of the mind and all things can be altered. All things can change.
The blinkers that would have hidden the fact that the horse was physically attached to something would have prevented the horse bolting. The horse – I remember being told he was OK – I never saw again. But that was my mum telling me, that the horse was ok. The adult me today, can guess that the horse probably was not, ok. The blinkers would have saved the horse, too. For sure.
So, what is the point in all this? Well here it is.
We all have a lot of scary stuff behind us and sometimes it helps to apply our own emotional blinkers. You aren’t denying the bad things are there by using blinkers, you are merely channeling your focus and not paying attention to sadness in the past or fear in the present. It is ok to limit information that may frighten you and make you want to run, like a bay horse, into the side of a large red brick farmhouse. It’s the same when choosing not to watch the constant Coronavirus news bulletins. And don’t confuse blinkers with putting your head in the sand, it’s not the same thing. Blinkers can help. Burying your head is just daft.
I speak to my brother Steven most nights, he calls me from the Brain Rehabilitation Unit in Haydock, where he lives. His voice is soft like a pillow and as gentle as sable. It is low, slow and considered when he says, Hello Mary how are youuuu?
We talk about whether he has had a nice day? What he did. I went to Physio today, he purrs. Oh nice I say, I would love to go to physio. Would you, why? Because I have got an aching back from this bloody Coronavirus, Ste. I hope you haven’t got it. You haven’t really got it have you, Mary? No brother. I don’t have it. I just have an aching back and then we both say, Ahhhh and chuckle.
We talk about the weather, our sisters, what we had for dinner. Lots of things. I tell him I love him and speak to him tomorrow. He doesn’t have a cough and he is well. All is good in the world. And he is happy.
Don’t watch the news, I say, before I hang up. Ok, I won’t. Why not?
Because it’s just full of very scary stuff. Promise me you won’t watch the news. Put you blinkers on.
Blinkers? What are you talking about now Mary, and he laughs. Just take care I say and don’t watch the news. Ok, I won’t. He says. And then he calls my name, Hey, Mary!
I’m going to go now ok, goodbye darling. Goodbye darling, I say. I love you, he says.
And I love you Steven Caddick.
Until next time readers. Blinkers on and, walk on.