‘Your son has been in an accident; he’s been run over… I don’t know how bad it is but the paramedics have taken him away…’ Words composed to collapse the interior universe of any parent. What would you be thinking?
‘It wasn’t an ordinary car, dad…it was a Jag!’ And so (a whole hour later) my son, his skinny frame bound by splints, braces and emergency-orange head chocks reassured me that he was not only alive and relatively cogent, but still possessed a sense of style, albeit one framed by a schoolboy petrol-headed, Top-Geared world where it was understood that 82 Brake Horse Power isn’t very much.
An animal, howling journey down the motorway in thick freezing fog proceeded grave, sometimes unfathomable discussions with tired-looking consultants and long days and sleepless nights by his bedside and 120 mile roundtrips when it wasn’t ‘my turn’ to stop over, followed by the logistical web of home care/ getting into work/ keeping the house going/ ensuring there was enough fuel to last through the heavy snows/ sorting out his education at exam time/ accessing mechanical aids that looked like instruments of torture and degradation from a Roger Corman film set and figuring out the toileting and personal hygiene bit with minimum embarrassment (make rude jokes and laugh a lot being the strategy we settled upon).
‘A modern accident in the modern world’ I thought.
One consequence of such life events is the amount of time it provides for you to think. This is one of the more precious commodities and the opportunity to carve out such headspace is something I value greatly and have been known to go to some lengths to achieve.
Spending quiet time as my son slept, often for hours, with the occasional flinch and whimper as a flake of knocked-out memory settled back into place, my thoughts would wander from the infinite to the intimate. Other times they would float off somewhere, caught in the rhythm of the expensive-looking machines by his bedside, connected to arm and chest, counting out the essential signs of life in a series of pulsing, detached electronic announcements.
And here’s a thought that occurred: what if our circumstances were different?
Take away our home that is warm and comfortable, feels safe and familiar, with resources to feed and keep us clean and warm and make sure we can stay in touch with family and friends.
Remove the school my son will return to that he has attended for the past four or so years, filled with friends and teachers who know him. Take away the neighbours we have known long enough for them to be concerned and offer their (albeit somewhat infirm) help. Take away the resilience that is cultivated and steeled through knowing you have all these things.
At times like these – and more than ever in a hardening, increasingly punitive social and political landscape – we are blessed not to be homeless.
If you’re interested in what we do to help people find and keep their homes you might want to take a look at our Shelter Scotland Family Housing Support projects – and if you’d like to support us please join our campaign for a private rented sector fit for families and fair for all.