When I was twenty-nine, one of my lower discs herniated to the point it flattened my spine. I have, due to my six-foot plus height, always suffered from back problems. There is a belief that tall men are strong oaks, but talk to many tall men of certain age and they will probably wish they were a little shorter. At this time of year, the wet, the growing cold slows me down and I jump from a thirty-seven year old to a seventy-three year old. For me, it is not the constant pain and addiction to the drugs that keep me walking that is the downside to my condition, it is the heartbreaking realisation that my toddler is now too heavy for me to pick up. Up to a few months ago I could occasionally swing him around in a circle and in a very rare moments carry him on my shoulders; though even in the photo featured you can see the pain in my face. What makes me cry is the fact that he looks to me to swing up in the air, carry him on my shoulders and give him piggie backs, the right of any child and a right I took for granted from my own Dad. I want to say that I am sorry to Little D for taking for granted for so long my own health. I can no longer swing him in the air or even lift, and I am reduced to a shambling figure that has to teach him to climb inanimate objects to even get into his own cot. It breaks my heart to see him reaching up to me to be carried. This is the time of year I feel it the most, due to the cold weather and the fact my condition has led to arthritis in my spine, that I spend much of my days on the floor doing physio and struggling to sit down. After getting to work, it takes me thirty minutes just to walk straight and though I can laugh at the odd duck walk I do, it would seem a hollow comedy. I could bemoan my lot and I am sure that this post goes someway towards that. I could say it was unfair but that would be foolish because, like many of us, I took my health for granted. Without my spinal accident I would never have become a gardener, would never have moved to Pig Row and found the delights of living by the season. Yet, my decline in health has robbed me of being an active Father. There is no sports for me and my son doesn't understand that, and may not understand it until he is an adult. What is worse, and many disabled people will back me up on this, is the looks you get when you're out and about, as if you are failing as a parent because you won't carry your child or because you park in a disabled bay and walk away, even when you duck walk. They look at you as if you're cheating the system. I would like to work full-time, the wage would be welcome and it would lower some of the financial pressures we feel. It is not possible though, my health would deteriorate and it would be my family who would suffer. So today, I ask that you don't take for granted your health or your family, or the simple act of bending down to pick up the child you love because there are so many of us who can't even do that.
This is the time of year many of us revel in the change of the season. The autumnal glow is here, the falling leaves, the taste of winter in the air, the warmth of well worn jumper and scarf. I used to love autumn but for me it has taken on another layer, a layer for me that is painful to live with and even to express.