Less than 24 hours ago the aptly named KLM Hopper fell out of the sky onto the runway at LeedsBradford airport and I began the countdown to my son’s wedding 7 days 4 hours 45 minutes as from now.
This morning I sat on the bed in Richard’s (my son) room. He kept his eyes averted from the game developer mod of Minecraft images on his oversized screen. And we talked.
I talked him about his granddad and his family in Ireland. He flicked the Minecraft image to Facebook and searched for pictures of his second cousins. He told me about the wedding plans, all the organising he'd done, the bills they had yet to pay – the florist, the caterers, the church. And I remembered.
I remembered the baby who was in such a rush to enter the world he arrived three weeks early and 10 minutes after his immature 20 year old mother climbed on to the delivery bed.
I remembered three year old Richard scaling the six foot wooden fence at the end of our garden to reach the neighbour’s paddling pool.
The policemen knocking on the door – to caution ‘his brother’ for vandalising a car, and eleven year old Richard stepping forward to admit it was him. (It wasn’t vandalised, he fell off his push bike on to the bonnet).
The teacher at his school phoning to say: he’d been hit by a cricket ball, tennis racket, rugby ball and his front teeth had been knocked out - again!
His teacher pulling me to one side in the car park her eyes shining. A little girl had climbed the Cedar tree in the school grounds and froze at the top. There wasn’t time to call the fire brigade, and the sports teacher didn’t think he had the balance to bring her down safely. Twelve year old Richard was pulled from his history class. A circle of anxious adults waited at the base of the tree while he scrambled to the top, convinced the little girl to wrap herself around him baby monkey style and swung them both back down.
Watching him plough down the field with a rugby ball, the thunder crack of his skull as it collided with the opposing team’s number eight, the set of his teeth as he kept moving. The astonished gasps from the crowd as he waded through the mud dragging a human chain towards the goal post to score the winning try.
The policemen knocking at the door a year later asking, ‘to speak to Richards parents’. I can still feel the booming of my heart and my bloodless cheeks. What had he done? Was he hurt? Was he ….?
My beautiful, brave, thirteen year old son had stepped into a circle of bullies throwing stones. Inside the circle was a young boy whose brother had been drowned in a canal two months earlier. The family, perhaps understandably, were not functioning well and were on the receiving end of some rather malicious gossip (the early 90’s was a cruel place). Richard tucked the boy’s bike under one arm and the boy under the other and faced down the bullies. Anyone who has ever seen my son in a rage will understand why the bullies ran. The policemen knocking on my door came to give him a commendation.
As I watch him walk down the aisle in seven days. It won’t be the tall young man I see dressed in a morning suit, but the toddler who knew no fear, the accident prone school child the teachers called on in an emergency, and the young man who when he recognised injustice and wasn’t afraid to be the one who stepped into the circle.
I’ll watch Richard and Raian promise to support each other though ‘better and worse’ and I know he’ll have both. But I also know that with courage and bravery, the hallmarks of his life, he’ll be ok.