rEd X Was Here

On Being Special

By Mike O’Connor

There are those who sail serenely through life and others whose passage is fraught with storms and cyclones.

If, like me, you are a member of the latter tribe, you would have become aware from a very early age that you were `special’’.

As a child, you would have spent a lot of time being rushed between your home and the emergency department of the nearest hospital with various life threatening complaints.

Some of these would have been self induced, the result of swallowing a variety of small metal objects and learning how to unscrew the top of any container labelled “Poison’’ before you could walk.

Come winter, other children would get colds. Not content to succumb to anything as common as a case of the sniffles, you would contract double pneumonia.

On those rare occasions when you were neither hospitalised nor recuperating at home, you would celebrate your good fortune by falling down the back steps or getting you foot jammed in your mother’s cheese grater.

Some of your playmates would occasionally succumb to measles or an outbreak of chickenpox. You would excel by contracting not only measles and chicken pox but by also going down with mumps and tonsilitis.

Like other children, you liked nothing better than playing in the backyard with your friends and getting as dirty as possible.

This same dirt that would wash off other children would, on one occasion, lodge in your eye. This particular dirt contained a fungus which proceeded to grow.

This proved particularly unpleasant and required many trips to the hospital and eventually, complex surgery. Things were quiet – too quiet – for a while and then you got this pain in your stomach.

“Virus’’ said the doctor which was good because you could stay home from school. In fact, due to being “special’’, you spent so much time at home recovering from various misfortunes that you had almost forgotten where school was.

The pain got worse and suddenly the doctor was worried. There was no time for an ambulance. You were carried out to your grandfather’s FJ Holden, laid out in the back seat and told to hold on as the old man drove the drive of his life to get you to hospital.

“Peritonitis’’, they said. “Another hour and we would have lost him.’’

You were in hospital so long that time that your leg muscles atrophied and you had to learn to walk again.

Still, you were growing up and hoped that as the years passed you’d progress from being “special’’ to “normal’’.

You began to play sport and noticed that you possessed an uncanny inability to kick and catch a ball. At first, you thought ball skills were rare talents possessed only by professional sports people.

Slowly it began to dawn on you that in fact your entire class possessed this talent and that you alone found it to be as challenging as waking a tightrope.

As you began to venture out into the world, you noticed another peculiarity, this being the propensity for your friends to fall over when they’d had too much to drink.

This led you to wonder why it was that you alone fell over when you were completely sober.

You were also becoming worried about your head. Not your facial features for which you had long ago abandoned all hope but rather the imminent possibility of severe concussion from the continual contact of your head with immovable objects.

Your family began to share this concern, noticing that while your siblings could move about the house in complete safety, you spent your days bouncing off doors and cupboards, occasionally retiring to the backyard to walk into tree branches.

You showed a particular fondness for an old gas pipe which protruded, ever so slightly, beneath the high set family home.

No other member of the family ever walked into this but you did so with such regularity that your father, fearing for your life, eventually wrapped it in a piece of blanket.

This ensured that when you walked into it you would bounce off it rather than knocking yourself unconscious.

Life for you, at least, was never dull no matter how much you hoped and prayed that it would be for the most innocuous of outings, such as an afternoon at the football were fraught with danger.

There you were, walking along with a group of friends after the game when the person in front of you brushed against a car’s radio aerial.

This sprung back and hit you in the mouth, shattering a front tooth.

“At leeth life’s neffa dull’’ you mumbled as you borrowed money to pay the dental bill.

Decades have passed and still you remain “special’’. Like you, when I read of natural disasters, I think of my life.

It’s reassuring, at least, to know that one of these days we will graduate from being “special’’ to “normal’’. We will, won’t me?