The 4th July is packed with memories for me. On 4th July 1981, I got married. On 4th July 1995, Steven came to live with us and we became his “forever family”. On 4th July 2010, Hillingdon decided to reveal for the first time that they were not going to allow Steven to come home from the ATU and were keeping him there until they found a long term placement for him. On 4th July 2013, Connor Sparrowhawk died.
Here is a kaleidoscope of memories from each of those four days:
It was the day after the Southall riots. I slept through them. I woke up on 4th July and headed to the barbers to meet my best man for our wedding haircuts. The place was eerily quiet. Shops were boarded up. I didn’t know why. I was just interested in getting my wedge looking spectacular for the afternoon. A week earlier I’d tried to do some home highlights but it looked like someone had vomited on my head. So to cover up the mess, I’d gone for a full blonde look, resembling the brothers in Modern Romance.
Back home it was the day of the Wimbledon final (McEnroe vs. Borg) and I tried not to get into it because I knew we’d have to leave during the first set. We were half an hour late. The traffic through Southall was horrendous – full of camera crews and sightseers picking over the night before.
We had our reception at Southall Football Club, with police cars circling the ground, keeping an eye out for a repeat of the previous night’s violence.
At the hotel, I sat on the loo with my feet in the bidet whilst Julie had pulled a stool from the bedroom and was likewise soaking her feet in the bath. It wasn’t romantic but it’s what was needed after being on our feet all day.
We’d spent a week in Steven’s home town getting to know him. Then we had to return home and leave him behind (I never understood that but the social worker kept saying that it gave us a chance to change our minds!) We then went back on 2nd July to meet his birth family, go to his school leaving party and then to his foster family for a final farewell. I found it incredibly emotional and sobbed through most of it. The adoption social worker arrived on 4th July for a final meeting and Steven was presented with his life story book. She then brought us home and I remember her complaining about Steven’s feet sticking in the back of her seat. So bombing down the motorway, I had to change seats with him in the back of the car. We didn’t know Steven had autism at the time but I remember his “odd” reaction to moving seats. Funnily enough, our whole life since has been full of assessments and a few months later at an “adoption review”, the social worker brought up how I’d handled that situation (baldy, in her view).
It was very late when we got home, so after something to eat, Steven went up to bed and I sat up all night watching him sleeping. I couldn’t believe that after 6 years of IVF & then the adoption process, we finally had a son.
Steven had been at the ATU for six months at this point. We should have been on holiday this week but the council had cancelled our holiday 2 weeks earlier. It wasn’t one of Steven’s home visit days, so my mate Ian took me to the pub/restaurant at Ruislip Lido and we sat in the midday sun and got pissed. When I got home, there was a hand delivered letter on the mat. Having lied to Steven and I for the past six months, the council had no option but to let the cat out of the bag (If they had stuck to their fake plan, Steven would have been due to come home for good two weeks later). I threw up all over the living room floor. I threw a lasagne at the balcony window. I tried to phone anyone who I thought had been involved in the decision at the council but nobody would take my calls. One of the support workers and his manager came round and we all hugged. I’ll never forget her words – “It’s serious Mark. He could be gone for good in a couple of weeks”. I went to bed at midnight but couldn’t sleep. In fact, I didn’t sleep again until 8th July.
I’d been following Sara’s blog for about 18 months. We have a mutual friend, Shelley, who had been such a fabulous support during 2010 and she suggested that I start to read My Daft Life. I loved the early stories. I recognised the quirky, funny world their family inhabited. And then Connor went into the ATU and the posts got darker and darker. It was like Groundhog Day and I feared for Connor and the family. But it never occurred to me that the most awful would happen – I just feared they’d be in for the same terrible fight I’d had to get Steven home. On the morning of 4th July, I was speaking at a conference for, of all things, Action for Elder Abuse! When I got off the tube, I noticed two missed calls from Shelley. I phoned her back and she read out Sara’s blog. I sat outside the conference hall in London and we talked for ages. But we couldn’t find an answer to our question – how does someone drown in the bath in an NHS facility? I wanted to ditch my presentation and tell the audience what had happened but bottled it. Since then, I’ve met both Sara and Rich and can see how special the family is so it’s no surprise what an incredible, but appallingly short life Connor had.
I’ve cried at the film The Tale of Laughing Boy that was released today. I meditated in bed as I try to still manage the fear and anger of 2010. I don’t have a bidet but I sat on the toilet and dangled my feet in the bath in tribute of my anniversary. And this afternoon, Steven and I watched the 1995 edition of Christmas Top of The Pops hosted by Jack Dee & Bjork. And Mr Memory Like An Elephant remembered as we watched Pulp singing Common People – “Had Jarvis Cocker in Seona’s car when Steven Neary was a new Steven Neary”
From → Social Care