When people think of MS they think of wheelchairs and disabilities. But only the ones you can see, as in physically see. The rest is placed in the back of the mind as non existent.
Have you ever spun around really fast only to have your brain shake inside your skull? Well that is what MS is like. It is those lost childhood memories you hear your brothers and sister laugh about when everyone is together, while you sit listening, laughing along to whatever has them so amused, yet behind your smile is panic by the lack of your ability to remember any of it.
There were many times during my younger years where going to an aunt’s house for a visit was a treat, only little did I know they went for the reason that there was no food in the house to eat, with no more charm bracelet ‘pound notes’ to break open for bread and milk. Only now I smiled at the thought, for I had constantly been oblivious to the hardships my parents under went in a bid to keeping us all under the illusion that they had it all under control. The small details that abscond from memory as time goes by are always the finest ones, especially when they make a reappearance if only for a moment. Waking on a winter’s morning for school only to find my father had lit the most wonderful fire, sparks flying with the promise of heating the back of my legs, while fighting for the spot closest to the hearth before the rest of my siblings arrived, uniforms in hand to be warmed before putting them on. Or the sound of my mother banging on the side of the saucepan with a wooden spoon informing us all that the porridge was ready for consuming, all the while shouting in her not so awake voice for us all to hurry up before we were late. Then there are the moments that never return.
A sisters First Holy Communion, there was a party or so I have been told as my mother was in hospital at the time, once again so I have been informed, only there is not a single thing in my memory which informs me of this piece of evidence that this in fact transpired. Supposedly we all went to dinner the week after to a place which later burned down, leading me to believe that my mind is not only playing tricks on me but so are my siblings. My own seventh, eighth and ninth birthdays, yet I can recall the day that same sister was brought home from the hospital. How my great aunt who had long ago stepped up as our grandmother, held her before me and asked ‘well what do you think?’ I recall grunting much to my mother’s amusement and my aunt’s laughter. The same woman who reddened by backside as they would say for getting lost while out purchasing clothes for us all one Saturday. The memory of running down the road towards my grandad Tom’s house in the direction of the open arms of my father, my three year old legs were going to break free of the concrete beneath them leaving me to fly like a bird. I had gotten a new haircut and couldn’t wait to show it off, and I can still recall my own laughter at being picked up and span around until my head of straight blonde now bobbed cut hair was dizzy. Memories of standing watch as my mother made homemade bread, or French plaited both my sisters’ hair because one day I would need to know how these things were done.
Then there are the memories which no matter how hard you attempt to stomp them out, they will under no circumstances recede into that dark place where they belong, they are the ones that will plague but what is more, they will command your attention until that very day you take your last breath. The memory of my youngest brother blue in his cot one morning is a recollection I wished not to recall, as Aileen asked ‘why is the baby blue?’ My father snatching him from his cot as he ran down the stairs blowing in his face, all the while my oldest brother Lee was freaking out, I was crying along with Aileen, yet our youngest sister Stephanie was playing totally oblivious to what was going on. My mother screamed in horror that her child was dead, just as my father burst from the house, bear footed, shirtless and headed single-mindedly running as fast as humanly possible for the doctors around the corner. My mother dashing throughout the house close to losing her mind as she tried to figure out what to do with the other four of us just as she tore after him. Having no car or form of transport resulted in our family doctor breaking speed limits to get him to the hospital in a bid to save his life. And there is where my recollection of the incident concludes, I know nothing further of what arose subsequent to that. Hence being informed that a neighbor who I am extremely fond of, came to the house to watch over us while our parents where at the hospital. Of course there are the memories I may find entertaining that no one else might if I could in fact remember them, like the day I was doing my homework in the garden and my sister Aileen kept pushing my arm as I tried to write, in retaliation as any child focusing on keeping her teacher happy, I swung around stabbing her with my pen into the top of her leg. She screeched in agony whereas I promised her the world to remain quiet furthermore not tattle on me. She has the scar to prove that it did come about, me on the other hand, I just laugh as yet again I consider the fact that perhaps they are jesting me, well with the exception of the scar, I believe that enlightens me that this one may possibly be accurate.
“Yeah,” I said as I put my medication into my mouth and swallowed.
“Do you remember the time Lee painted his bike black including the tires and brought it through the house?’
“Yes I do,” watching as her face changed before my very eyes gave me a feeling of success, I can get involved in the conversation now. “I remember him getting his ass kicked.”
“Yes he did,” her laugh was infectious when she relaxed enough to let it come easy. “Or Stephanie singing into the banister of the stairs?” watching her as she continued to reminisce, I hadn’t it in me to tell her the conversation was already lost on me. ‘Singing into the banister? When did this happen? Wasn’t it the chord from the electric kettle?’ “You okay? You look confused,” her voice had changed somewhat making me feel anxious that I was really that transparent.
“No, I’m okay, I guess I had just always thought it was something else.”
“Yeah the chord from the kettle,” giggling again, she tapped me on the arm unknowingly as her head fell backwards as once again her laughter came. “She was so cute, the little blonde head on her, and the pout.” My face must have lightened a little for when she wiped the tears from her eyes she looked at me strangely, only said nothing, she didn’t have too. I think my own fears were rubbing off on her and she hated it. The one thing I have learned since the beginning of my MS battle, is that what I feel, all of my siblings feel. My heartache, pain, and anger but most of all the fear of being regarded in a different way than everyone else, but right now I had a memory that was accurate and it compelled me to feel invigorated.
“What about the time Stephanie was climbing the door frame and spotted mam and dad hiding the Santa toys,” now they all laughed, but yet again I have no recollection of this. ‘What the hell is she talking about?’
“Or when Lee was hanging upside down from the attic door with the binoculars wearing Simon’s baby hat,” my mother piped up snorting at the memory, “You took the photo,” she added looking at me. ‘Just smile back and nod your head,’ I said to myself as I watched and listened to the stories come one after the other with the realization that only a handful made sense.
“And then you swallowing your tooth,” Aileen added laughing so loud I couldn’t help chuckle at her childishness, all the while a frown formed on my brow as I forced myself to recollect what she was talking about. ‘What bloody tooth?’
“No that was Lee, I distinctly remember him swallowing his tooth and crying because he thought the tooth fairy wasn’t going to come.” I added full of confidence only to have her correct me with, “No, it was you and you screamed the house down.” ‘Well shit!’ was all I respond as yet again my memory had eluded me.
These days as you can see are much different, while in place of my parents keeping us all under the illusion that they had it all under control, it was now my turn.