In about 1977, my forward thinking primary school admitted a boy with profound physical disabilities. Let’s call him Ray.
In those days, children with just about any physical or cognitive disabilities were sent to places like “St Boltoph’s Really Special School for the Sake of Wider Societies Discomfort” or whatever passed for that dreadful Functionalism thinking at the time. There would be a big sign out the front telling everybody how special everybody inside was, and a sort of grim awe of the place, like it was Diet Mordor.
I mean, I found out recently my great grandmother spent the rest of her life in a “mental hospital” (as they were called) because she had dared to have a reactive breakdown after loosing her husband in her 40’s, and having 13 children to support. True story.
So. My school explained Ray’s needs, and our expected responses, in the weeks running up to his arrival. And then came the day.
Our world imploded.
Within days the only people talking to, or playing with Ray, were some of the girls (isn’t that so true) and the scary dinner ladies, Mrs Headbutt and Mrs- Physical- Assault When- You- Go- In- The -Big -Field- Even -After- A- Football.
To everybody else, he represented an inconvenient truth. Seeing Ray reminded us that the world might be wilder and more frightening than our current reality. The cost of listening to his pronunciation was too hard, and the thought of being seen with him too uncool, and the thought of putting up with his complex emotional needs, even for a millisecond, was too dreadful.
I was a child, and a child of the 1970’s at that, so I’m not going to be hard on myself. Bear in mind most of BBC light entertainment were serial paedophiles, you played on 200 foot high building sites on your Chopper with no health and safety fences, as Bill Bryson said in “Notes From A Small Island”, the average British sitcom viewer thought here there was something richly comic about having a black person as a neighbour. It wasn’t an insightful, kind or tolerant place.
You see, from all our circle of support 8 years ago when we first had the children placed, we only have one couple left.
The childhood passive brutality is an aside, but there are parallels with our lost friends, and me and my peers of 1977.
Our “funky” adoption scared, appalled, disturbed and weirded out a lot of people (I mean aside from us) and we got ghosted out of their life with “the first of the last calls” and terminal full diary’s. It really was too hard too watch for many, and the damage on the children so enormous and scary. The casserole of primary and secondary trauma.
We are completely cool about it, by the way. We would likely done the same. This isn’t a moan, but more a “Oh yeah!” moment when you realise you never see baby pigeons, and its really hard to buy a Star Bar.
A lot of it is just normal life as well. People grow apart and all that. We are all too busy, and too dispersed- if not by miles, by travel times.
But you won’t make it without friends.
Some time ago, we came to a crossroads in our friendships. We started to be intentional about friends, and as Ken Robinson states in his book “The Element”, we decided to try and find people who belong to our “tribe” – for “when tribes gather in the same place the opportunities for mutual inspiration become intense”. We are friendly with everybody, but not everybody gets into the inner courts.
We were especially careful of anybody, no matter how well meaning, who made agreements with negativity or reminded us how hard things are. We said it before on here, but it has to be glass half full all the time.
The kind of friends we have in our life now are friends who know us warts and all, get our children (or at least accept them because they love us) and also have the ability to speak into our life. Our friends have seen us in tears, depressed, and without hope. Our friends have had their house- or even children- damaged by our children, and haven’t pulled the eject cord.
We have friends who have helped us financially when we had nothing. There was a period when I was out of work, and transitioned to very part time work to be D’s carer. I remember selling electrical goods at Cash Converters to buy rice, and searching on tiptoes in the back of kitchen cupboards, hoping there was a can or some lentils lurking there we forgot about. Our mortgage got paid when I had no job, our grocery’s bought during the same period, and many a time our letterbox flapped in the night and money was put through. Our church gave us some money to fix something really expensive once in a time of utter desperation.
Find your tribe, but understand why you aren’t in other tribes. That includes in the adoption community.
By the way, still waiting for the call about moving in………