‘You should have come Dad, everyone loved it.’ Those were the words the boy said on his arrival back home after his dancing debut and his acting debut. His father never saw him act, he never saw him dance, he never saw him, period. Don’t get me wrong, we were all living together as a ‘happy’ family. If others were present then the husband would put on a show of doting father. If they weren’t, it was ‘just give me five minutes for a fag and a brew.’ Or, ‘I’m busy, go tell your mum.’ So the boy did, and he gave up trying to speak to his father.
The narcissistic father didn’t mind accepting accolades about ‘his’ son though, because the boy had been noticed and people were talking about him. He was in the local newspapers, Dancing Boy Defies Disabilities! His father was quoted as saying, ‘all I ever wanted to do was play football with my son, I can’t do that but we all pull together to muddle through.’ Yeah, they actually quoted that shit in the newspaper. It ruined the whole thing for me. Not for the boy though, he fixed the problem with a pair of scissors and some sticky tape. That quote isn’t on his page in his scrapbook! I could take a few lessons from him I think!
That’s my boy!
He was headline news for a week during his debut in the summer show. He headlined again for his role as Tiny Tim. Here was a feel good story that everyone could love. Except his father of course. ‘What they making such a fucking fuss for? It’s not like he climbed a mountain or anything is it?’
YES HE HAD! HE HAD CLIMBED A FUCKING MOUNTAIN! He had climbed the HYDROCEPHALUS MOUNTAIN and conquered it! But the father couldn’t see that because he was unaware of the depths of the struggle the boy faced on a daily basis, he was unaware because he didn’t care.
The boy and I became a tight knit little unit of two, we planned and we plotted and we laughed and we played, always just the two of us and when the idiot came home we would just take it into a different room. The parting of the ways began there. It would take another 10 years before it all finally broke but this was the start of when me and the boy first pulled tightly together as two and pulled away from the poison. It was better this way both for the boy and myself. It cut out the need to ask and be rejected. We rejected him instead.
Regardless, things were moving quickly for the Boy now. Remember the Dickens old lady from my previous blog? she of the continuity issues? Well, turns out she was so mortified by her misreading of the situation, she and her friends wrote a letter to a Women’s magazine. The magazine was running a feature called, Millenium Children of Courage Awards. The ladies had nominated the Boy.
A lady from the magazine rang the theatre, the manager was ecstatic and gave her my home phone number. I took the call at 9pm in the evening. It was surreal. I thought it was a wind up and I did ask her if someone had put her up to this because the boy had been in the papers recently. She said no, he had been nominated for living an ordinary life despite the extraordinary circumstances. He had been shortlisted for the award.
I was shell shocked. I kept the news to myself for a whole week until I found out via a written letter of invitation, that he had made the final 11 who had been selected to receive the award.
He was going to London in December, to stay in a fancy 5 star hotel for 2 nights, he was to meet the Prime Minister. He would go to Westminster Abbey to receive his award from the Duchess of Kent. He would then lunch in the House of Lords with celebrities from all genres of the arts and sporting world. In short, he was going to have the TIME OF HIS LIFE for two whole days straight!
Of course, as his parents, we got to go along with him to the event of his life. I remember not having a decent dress to wear for the awards ceremony and my mum whom I adore, took me out and bought me two suitable dresses, one for the day time and one for the evening. His father lapped up the attention, chatted with celebrities such as Vinnie Jones, Joan Collins, Chris Eubank, some soap stars and football heroes, he mixed with them all and he accepted the accolades about his fabulous son and he told them all how ‘we’ as parents had both worked really hard to give the boy this normal life he now lived.
Meh… when you have to ride on the coattails of your disabled child in order to steal his glory, there is something wrong with the way you are wired up.
The boy, being the boy, was not much affected by all the fuss and fanfare of the occasion. He took it all in his stride and held court with his adoring public. And they did adore him, the prime minister was no exception to this state of affairs. The boy had gone with the other children to meet him and they were given a can of coke and a biscuit when they arrived in the drawing room of 10 Downing Street. The Prime minister walked around with his cup of tea talking to each child individually. When he reached the boy, he put his tea down on the table next to him. Now, this all sounds quite banal and a pointless observation to put in here, but it wasn’t and it isn’t.
You see, whenever the boy had been to see his orthopaedic surgeon, they would chat about how to prevent excess weight gain brought about by drinking fizzy drinks and eating sweets. The surgeon had pressed home the importance of you are what you eat. The boy worshipped his surgeon and so did everything he told him to. He refused all fizzy drinks and sweets but was partial to a biscuit or two.
Back to the cup of tea. The boy had a biscuit, a pink wafer biscuit that he was nibbling on. It was dry and he is a biscuit dunker by nature. Well, you can’t dunk a biscuit in a can of coke now can you? A cup of tea was called for, and oh look, one has arrived!
DUNK! The Prime Minister laughed loudly when he saw the floaty bits of pink wafer in his tea. The boy had eaten the remaining evidence and was looking angelic. The staff from the magazine were running around with their heads up their arses, what a gaff, what a… The boy looked at me and said, ‘My biscuit was too dry mum, it’s just a cup of tea. PM didn’t mind, look he’s laughing about it.’
I have children of my own he said, perfectly natural thing to do. He and the boy bonded over another biscuit and a chat and then it was time to leave. He had made his mark on the UK Prime Minister.
By the time we arrived at WestMinster Abbey, his father, who had not been allowed to attend Downing Street, (only 1 parent per child could go, the boy chose me) had already heard about the biscuit incident and he was less than impressed. He was furious because he had been embarrassed by this son he had publicly claimed as his pride and joy.
The actor who was reading the children’s citations hurried over to the Boy and myself and asked if he could add the biscuit story on to the end of the Boy’s citation as it was such a lovely normal thing to do, the public would love it! I shrugged and said yes of course although it was just a biscuit…
That bloody biscuit made International headline news! All the papers covered the story in one form or another. The boy was about to receive his 15 minutes of fame! Our lives became a whirlwind of interviews, photo ops with famous people, a day out in London provided by the News International group. He was made editor for a day at the sun newspapers, he got a secluded viewing of the crown jewels arranged for him so that he could go in his wheelchair and have a good look. He had three burly Beefeaters keeping a watchful eye on proceedings the whole time! He was given £500 to spend in the biggest toy store in London, Hamleys. He went in and went wild, spending the huge amount of £20.00 on a green power ranger. That’s it. That’s all he bought, he wanted to save the rest to pay for more dancing lessons and new tap shoes when he needed them.
This is my boy of whom I am most proud!
All images courtesy of the internet.