While collecting some photographs for my solicitor the other day I came upon the scans that I had made of my first set of x-ray plates. These were made immediately after my accident three years ago. This one is of my smashed patella and the bale of stainless steel wire and nails that were used to hold it together while it healed (taking 6 months to do so). And, it occurred to me again, as it does so so often, how fortunate my life has been.
I am sobered by the fact that, in a couple of months’ time, I will become eligible for the old age pension. Had someone suggested this fact to me when I was 15 years old, I would have laughed at the idea of me even making it that far into the future. 2014? It will never happen. Hell, we were studying George Orwell’s “1984” in English trying to imagine just how much the world would have changed by the time this date, YEARS into the future, would have rocked around.
But, time wounds all heels, as Alfred E Newman said, and here I am in 2014 and that first year in high school seems even further away from me now than 1984 did to me then. And, reflecting on this fact, as one does as one gets older, I am reminded that my life has, indeed been blessed.
I was born into a loving and stable family. Back then, if married couples had trials and difficulties, they stuck it out and worked it out. I had a stay-at-home mum who showered us with love and attention. I had a father who was revered not just by me but by everyone with whom he came in contact. An itinerant evangelist for a Christian organisation, dad was often away for weeks at a time, ministering in the far-flung rural wilds of New South Wales. My parents were by no means flush with cash in those days. Indeed, for much of my youth, dad’s income was sporadic and sometimes non-existent, living by faith and through the generosity of fellow believers who supported the work as best they could. Nevertheless, I was never conscious of going without until probably my teenage when one becomes more fixated on these issues.
I had no real need of peers for friendship, being blessed (I sometimes thought it was cursed) with an identical twin brother who was at once my best friend and my worst enemy. We were the constant trial to our parents being filled with mischief and blessed with a convenient fall guy to blame for our misdemeanours. That didn’t last for too long as mum and dad soon got tired of trying to sort out who’d “done it” and we’d both cop the punishment so at least justice was served. In the swings and roundabouts of life, the unfairness of being punished for something that you HADN’T done was more than compensated for by the getting away with the things that you HAD done! Listening to the hair-raising tales of those who knew us when we were young makes me wonder how we survived at all. For example. When we were four years old, living in Albert Road, Strathfield, a Sydney suburb, the two of us managed, in an unguarded moment, to escape mum’s attention and hightail it down to the footpath where we promptly hopped on a passing bus. Of course, mayhem ensued at home as mum desperately tried to find where we were. The problem was neatly solved by the clever bus driver who, when the bus reached the terminus and we were still on it, figured that we really shouldn’t have been there and asked us who we were and where we lived. Despite only being 4, mum had taught us our address. “134 Albert Road Strathfield” was the answer. So the bus driver fired up the bus, drove us home and delivered us back into the care of mum, who, after showering us with hugs and kisses, paddled the both of us soundly (and deservedly) for our stupid stunt.
Examples of the craziness of our youth could be multiplied for some time to come but that will do.
As a full-time Christian worker, dad was moved around a lot. By the time I finished high school, I had lived in 8 different houses in two different states and had gone to 8 different schools. Despite that supposed disruption, I never felt deprived, regarding each move as an adventure. In retrospect, I believe the nomadic life style was a brilliant part of my education, exposing me to a myriad of influences that would have been denied me had I stayed in the one place.
Throughout that youth I made some friends who still remain my friends to this day. And, through social media, I have re-established contact with even more childhood friends with whom I derive the great pleasure of comparing our respective lives and reflecting on where life has taken us. Again, blessings to be counted.
I have been fortunate in that I found a life partner who I married some 40 years ago and who has been my wife, my lover and my soul-mate. She has given me two wonderful children and, by default, three amazing grandchildren. She has been my rock and my constant support. In both good times and bad (and there has been plenty of both) she has never wavered in her commitment to the vows that we made. Even if nothing else had ever gone right in my life, finding her and making her my wife would make all the rest of it worthwhile.
I have been able to pursue my chosen profession and over 40 years of teaching has seen many more highlights than lows. Instead of dealing with paperwork, I have been able to deal with children. Instead of satisfying some boss by achieving “targets” or deadlines, I have been unspeakably privileged to have had a part in shaping lives. My work and the legacy of it, exists not in some dusty filing cabinet, but in thousands of people all over this nation for whom, being in my class for either a short or a long period of time, built some part of their character. I have been immensely honoured to have had precious lives entrusted to my care and to have had a part in turning those children into responsible adults.
I have been able to pursue my hobbies and passions. And here I must say that, if not for the support and sacrifice of my wife, that would never have happened. There is a cartoon doing the rounds at the moment that says, “My greatest fear is that I will die and my wife will sell all my bikes and bike parts – for the price that I told her I paid for them.” Yes, I have squandered so much on so many hobbies over the years. Golf, music (at present count I own 9 guitars), photography, fishing, computers and, worst of all (best of all??) motorcycling. Now here I have to say that I never got to be good at any of these pursuits but I sure have enjoyed them!
I have been blessed with good health. A strong string of heart disease runs through the male side of my dad’s family. So far good medical attention and a healthy lifestyle has seen me dodge the bullet. Indeed, were it not for my big shunt, I could say that my life has been illness and injury-free. Of course, surviving that accident and rebuilding myself has been another example of how fortunate I have been.
I have been blessed with wonderful friends. That, alone, would probably be enough, wouldn’t it?
Oh, and , lest this post seem to be assuming a maudlin tone, I look forward to continuing to do all of these things for many years to come!
The old gospel hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” Maybe we each should take some time to count our blessings. Because no matter how bad our life has been or could become, there is a blessing that there are always others who are worse off than us. And for that we should always be grateful.