David sat in the study reading, and smiled openly as he felt a tender hand ruffle his hair, his hair gradually slipping over his eyes. "Grandfather!" he said a little louder than he intended. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too, David, but I've been here watching you, and I will always watch over you. I saw what you did with your Nan? We men folk weren't made for shopping."
"Grandfather, that's not politically correct," he said with a devious grin that only a child could summon up.
"My ... have you swallowed a dictionary?" he said, trying to imitate the grin. "I know - now let me finish buggerlugs. You went along, even though you hated every minute, no doubt hiding the fact - I never could. One of these days, you are going to have to tell me how you do that," he said in a whisper, getting a proud look from David. "You know I'm a spirit," he could only smile at the expression he got, "but believe me when I say that I am so proud of you. I hug you with all of my heart, you always remember that."
A knock on the study door changed the mood dramatically.
"Are you in here, David?"
"Go and get washed up, it's time for bed."
"Okay Nan," trundling toward the door, but turning his view back to his Grandfather, giving him a warm smile.
Getting tucked into bed always gave David a warm feeling. "You get plenty of rest; tomorrow is going to be a long day, but you'll have lots of fun."
"Nan! Don't be mad at me, I know you've got me presents, but if I had no presents at all, I..."
"David, shush, I won't get mad. I'm not even upset with you, because you are being that little boy who has a thought for all, and we love so much. Gifts your father and the rest of the family have bought; some you may know about like clothes; but believe me, there are a lot more you know nothing about that you will find in the morning tucked under the tree. And believe me, you will love each and everyone. Do you know the best part of getting a present?" Getting a shake of the head, "removing the wrapping to see what's inside," gently taking him in her arms. "I know things being given, even bought for you makes you uneasy. But David, you do not, emphasizing the latter, you do not need to do things on your own; which means 'you' just being here to do whatever you do; you have support ... people who really love you."
"I don't remember giving you chores, was it not you who always volunteered? Like chores, doing for someone else is no detriment, but having to do anything for yourself is hard, and a mountain for others to climb. I accept this from past experience, and believe me, I understand; but please try... try and understand that when your father, myself, even yourself, gives to someone else; even be that a kind word, that is giving a piece of yourself. It's said, 'that a picture can speak a thousand words', 'and actions speak louder than words,' David, I have seen your face light up with a simple gesture. That is the feeling you should get when you give or receive a gift. Giving a gift is more than the present itself, it's the thought; the thought that someone cares enough about you. Giving and receiving shouldn't give anything more than happiness and pleasure. David, don't deprive yourself of those feelings. David, we'd still love you the same no matter what. Being David would be all we would ever want." There was a look of pride; and at the same time, she noticed discomfort.
"Can I tell you something?" as she sat David on her knee. "If only one person was to ever give me a gift, I would pray to the Almighty that he goes back in time to the day you came to this door," as a tear slipped slowly down her cheek, "everything would pale in insignificance to that very day. My gift was a scared little boy, who even now brings so much happiness. So, believe me, David, when I say that you are my little man - it means now and forever."
Feeling guilty, he gave his Nan a kiss on the cheek and an extra strong hug, while in his mind he prayed that it would never end.
"I love you, Nan."
"I love you, David, more than you will ever know. Now to sleep with you... Good night little man."
Seemingly the day started with which in truth reminded one of a pitched battle as paper seemed to renovate in every direction possible. David leaving himself to one side as gifts were handed out to all. He laughed and smiled as he watched Jeremy, even holding Samantha as presents were opened, then discarded as another present was opened.
It seemed as if on cue, the commotion died down as David reached the bottom of the staircase.
"What's wrong, David?" Jeremy being the last person you would expect to ask.
"Will you follow me upstairs, please?" They all followed, a smile relieving everyone's concern.
David being David refused all attempts for money to buy gifts, using what money he had saved while at Briarcoft. Each was handed a gift, David showing vast amounts of concern as each present was opened.
Each adult, as if rehearsed, gave David release from the agony he was holding back. This was a new learning curve as he had never, as he described later, had the pleasure of giving gifts before.
"David, you shouldn't have." Jeremy, it seemed, was a little more reserved for his age.
"You really bought this for me? Thank you David" as he walked over giving David a hug." Little Samantha not being left out was given a small Koala bear to play with.
The ladies in the room smiled at David giving a gentle hug as eyes moistened, not wanting to show tears to a young boy who, in truth, had more love in his heart than the whole of Suffolk.
Boxing Day was fraught cold and damp as the morning came a little early for the menfolk, as in a polite way as possible, coming down from the previous day's festivities, preferring to keep their distance from what would be a noisy affair once the kids woke.
David made his way into the kitchen, not seemingly knowing what a lie in was or adhered too.
"Well good morning, sleepy head."
"Good morning, Nan. Where's father?"
"He's in the study with Uncle James." Tea seemingly does not have the same waking properties this morning.
"Have you cleaned your teeth this morning?"
"Yes, Nan. I even wiped the stain off the floor in the bathroom."
"Stain?" looking directly at David got her a grin. "Go tell Louise breakfast is ready. I think I have just found my potato peeler for dinner," she said with an even more menacing grin at David; who with a worried look, turned and did his own impression of the one-minute mile.
"David, can I speak to you?" as he made his way toward the study. "Tomorrow I want to take you to buy clothing, not today as I'm not sure that today I'd be able to keep myself out of police hands because of those mental buggers they call shoppers. I want you to pick a complete wardrobe from head to foot."
"But I don't need anymore; you bought me clothes for Christmas?"
"David you are a growing boy; one or two pairs of trousers and t-shirts don't even constitute a day's change."
"But I don't do anything to get dirty." Though Edward knew the reasons for David's non-acceptance to being given things he didn't know how he was going to get across the complexities. He and others had tried without success to rise above his feelings.
"David, will you change again tomorrow and the day after?
"Don't you think with all the washing your Nan does that it would be unfair to have her wash one of everything you took off in the sink because of not being enough clothes to put in the washing machine? Your Nan is not as young as she used to be."
"I'm sorry, I'm being selfish again."
"David, please stop that... you are not being selfish, you haven't got a selfish bone in your whole body; but if you were being selfish, it would be to yourself. You shower and put clean clothes on, don't you? Problem solved ... we buy you new clothes." With the argument posed, David could do little but sit with his head down.
"David, please don't; I'm not scolding you, I am trying in the only way I know how to stop you from putting yourself down. David, sometimes people can be their own worst enemy. I know that your confidence and your self-esteem are low, but I thought you were now beginning to feel comfortable in your own skin ..."
"I know... I know you worry about me, but..."
"Do you remember the talk we had? Let the adults do the worrying? And we do worry - that's what we do."
I had thought on more than one occasion of finding a reputable child psychologist, but I knew that would be a step backwards. Though David had settled in the last few months, there was still fragility below the surface. It seemed at times that the softer spoken you were, the more David accepted the rebuke without actually adhering to it; or even wanting to alter the fact, as if being uncomfortable being noticed.
"David, I don't want you to be comfortable with the way you are. No, that's wrong ... let me rephrase it. David, I want you to be comfortable with yourself and what you do; but I'm not."
David looked at Edward with confusion and upset.
"David, what if I said I think it's time you started to grow up, that I sometimes think you like to act stupid, or for use of a better word, dumb; that you live in your own little world, probably feeling sorry for yourself, and maybe that's the reason all the other kids gave you a hard time?"
David rose from his seat with as much difficulty as he could ever remember. With tears in his eyes, he stared at Edward with fear, hurt, and disbelief as he turned to make his way from the study.
"David, you sit yourself down this minute!"
"David, look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn't like to have the same things other kids have? Then honestly tell me why you haven't? Are you that scared and lonely that you would need to pretend - lie to everyone?"
"I don't lie to everyone?"
"Then you must be lying to yourself?"
"David, you are intelligent, you have a good head on your shoulders, but having a good brain can only show what you are capable of. In the time you have lived here, I have seen many sides of the person David. I've seen the good and the bad. I've seen a boy with emotions, a boy with mixed emotions that David he himself doesn't understand, but I also see a confused, lonely, and an insecure little boy; a boy who knows who he is, but doesn't know how to act. I've seen a little boy who couldn't hurt another living thing, even if it meant hurting himself, so tell me, David, why ... why is it so easy to hurt yourself?"
There was a silence as David went to sit back down.
"What comes from inside is what makes a person. David, there is an aura around you that makes you special, and people can see it, can feel it with your actions; so tell me, Son, why can't you? That wouldn't make you conceited, but with all you give on the outside is what comes from the inside of you. I know I've been hard on you, but I see at times that my little boy is in so much turmoil, and it worries me."
"David, at times life can be like the books you read. For every minute, hour or day that goes by it's another chapter. Every book or chapter you read means you have learned something new. David that is what I want for you ... not to settle on what you are, but keep growing inside and out.
"Can I go to my room" as he started to get up.
"Yes, you may, but only if you think about what has been said ... not sulk. David, hard words are never nice, but sometimes we have to stop and think of the reason they were said. David, no matter how much I reassure you, no matter how many times I may tell you off, unless you can accept that it's said for you to learn and understand, then David will always be the little boy that at times is frightened by his own shadow.
Walking slowly back to his father, Edward lifted David up and gently sat him on his knees facing him. Getting comfortable on his lap, he asked David to do something more for himself. "David, I need you to think about something. At the school, there were other kids like you who had no family. They were probably as scared as you that it could be them who were being bullied, picked on, even being forced to do what they had you do, and I want you to ask yourself if they had the same opportunity, would they refuse other people's kindness. I am not saying that to upset you, but for you to realize that taking what is offered will not make people think any less of you. Now go and see if lunch is ready, and go and change, you pong."
"I do not?"
A sulk and what I've heard called 'liver lipped' was the look David gave as he hobbled toward the door, stopped, and looked back. "I love you, Father."
"I love you too. Now come back over here, give me a hug, and tell me that you are going to ask for things you can't have."
"Good. Now hop to it." He giggled as David made his way to the door. "I didn't mean literally."
George was more than annoyed at his son... his treatment was beyond family protection. But as Edward had said, let the adults do the worrying. He was encouraged by David's comeback, but seeing the hurt felt like a stab in the heart, but hearing the belief Edward tried to emit, looking at David he took in what was said, having a little more faith than he himself had. George had to smile as David seemed to float out of the study. He had taken the words to heart, and after some thought, saw the ploy, and his heart soared with pride at his son.
The following day, Edward, more out of courtesy, rang social services. Giving details of who he was, where he lived, and such like inform them of his contact with a Prosthetist. A Doctor Wiseman.
"I'm afraid I cannot sanction any treatment without authorization from my supervisor, and at that point, a recommended physician would contact you."
"But Miss, I'm sorry I didn't catch your name?"
"Madam, apologies, Susan Blackley, we are talking about a child's well-being, not where he is being shipped off to."
"I'm sorry Mister Whitmore, but it is procedure."
"But Madam, I am willing to pay the full amount required with no expense to the public's purse for any treatment he has received from you in the past, which I have no doubt was done, or the NHS would not have been charged to your department; but I have no doubt that any costs for the prosthesis for David would not see the light of day."
"I am sorry again, Mister Whitmore, but we have procedures to follow, as I am sure you are well aware."
"To the devil be, yes I am. Can you, or will you please contact Mrs Robinson, David's social worker?"
"If she is not available, I will leave the details on her desk."
Amanda Robinson made contact with the same stance. "I'm sorry Mister Whitmore, but those are the rules."
"So, you're telling me I can be his family, but I have no recourse on his well being? You don't need to answer that, but it seems that peeing in the same pot comes to mind. Goodbye Miss Robinson."
"Sam, I need your help. I need you to find a date for the adoption of David, and when you do, well if you have to beg, steal, or borrow even, find a new bit on the side if you have to, but get his case in court as soon as possible."
"Are you giving me a choice? Okay, what's happened now?"
"Bureaucracy ... I'm allowed to take responsibility for David, save them the time and money, sorry effort and paperwork. Well, they seem not to have a problem having the monopoly on it now. You know my brother James, he has been in contact with a Doctor Wiseman, who works in prosthetic's ... that we can go over another time. To cut a long story short, they near as told me they would not sanction any treatment, even though I said I would cover all the costs. And I've got news for you, friend; if you do nothing that makes you as bad as the rest of them."
"Being tactful as usual I see. Yes, Edward, I am your friend, though at times God only knows why. They have rules to follow just like the rest of us."
"Yes we do, I understand that; but they are put in place for the protection of everyone, not that it seems to matter to social services and a select few I might add. They have done checks so deep I'm sure they were claustrophobic! They probably know more about me than I do. Sam, he needs this. I know this comes under the magistrates, but if I can get into court, I can show neglect on the part of social services; and I'm right in saying the magistrate will have a far greater say than myself. I know I can rattle some cages, but you are on the same level. I know magistrates are a different breed, but..."
"Showing neglect will be hard, even for you, let alone me. I'll have to use my inimitable charm... I'll do what I can, but no promises."
Thanks, Sam, I owe you; and I'm sorry for the insults. I know I go over the top sometimes, but I'm passionate ... you know that."
"OH, Yes! I know. You must bottle it all up and wait just for me. Always being your target can get tiring at times. There are others you could mouth off to, you know, that are worse than me!"
"I have to be honest I'm getting concerned, in the last couple of days, I swear he's slowing up. What I'm trying to say is, he's been walking on one leg his whole life, but now I see him grimace sometimes, though he tries to hide it. I know something's wrong, it has to be his joint or his hip, might even be just a bit of tiredness and having all his weight in one place, but I really doubt it. I'm getting worried. I'll try and find a way to broach the subject with him over dinner."
"Is everything alright, Edward? I heard you on the phone, I'm sure the whole of the east coast heard you."
"I was giving Sam a hard time again."
"Your Uncle Sam said to remind you to pick anything you want and make sure it's expensive" as he saw David entering the kitchen. "I told David we are going to get him a new wardrobe, but we'll have to wait till tomorrow."
"Yes, I remember how you like shopping!"
"Don't be flippant, Mother! And what are you smiling at?" seeing the grin plastered across David's face.
"Well, what do I owe the pleasure? Read any new books lately?" David gulped at remembering his slip-up with his father a few days ago.
"Sorry Grandfather, it won't happen again."
"David, I was pulling your leg. Come on and sit over here. Is something bothering you?"
"Not really, but I'm just not looking forward to going out."
"Ah! I see ... shopping. You'll be fine, it'll be fun."
"I know, it's just I don't know what to get."
"Just don't be getting pants mixed up with panties."
"Grandfather!" George giggled seeing the near post box red blush.
"Your Nan was in here this morning; she sometimes comes in the study when she gets up to make breakfast, me and your Nan have spent a lot of time in here. We'd talk about the day, read a book, or simply watch the fire. In her eyes, you really are her grandson, you know! She'll come in, sit in her usual chair, and talk like we used too. She obviously doesn't know I'm here, but she'll use my name as if I'm sat right across from her. I know she wishes I was with her, but she can't know I'm still here. David, she is so proud of you; and I hope you know I am." A gentle smile said more than words. "Before dinner give her a hug, and an extra one for me."
"I thought I'd find you here. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes, go get washed up."
"Okay, Nan." He hobbled slowly past her, then stopped. "I love you, Nan," giving her what he thought was an extra special hug. "Nan, will you come shopping with us tomorrow?" George gave a warm smile for his thoughtfulness.
"You want me to go with you? You know I won't have any nonsense?"
"Okay, but if you're late getting up in the morning ..."
"Thanks, Nan" hobbling off, but not before he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"David, can we talk?"
"David, I want you to be honest with me, okay... I know you are having trouble getting about."
"I'm just tired."
"David, be honest with me!"
"I didn't want you to worry, honest." I prompted him to continue. "It's my hip, it gets sore sometimes."
"You're standing leg?" His head drifted to the floor as he nodded.
I walked over to him sitting him down in my lap. "David, worry - that's what parents do, remember? What are we going to do with you" pulling him tighter and stroking his hair back?
"I know you're a boy and boys don't complain, but how are we going to know if something isn't right? When your uncle James and I were kids, your Nan said she wouldn't let us out of her sight if we didn't tell her when something was wrong, and she would have done it too."
"You've got enough to worry about."
"David, you are my priority, there is nothing you could say or ask that I wouldn't stop whatever I was doing. I know it's not easy to settle..."
"Let me finish, I know it's not easy to settle, and I know whatever I say is not going to ease your fears, but I'm doing everything I can. Believe me, David, this family is your family where ever you are. I know that doesn't solve anything, but David, you now have people who love you, who want you ... so now, every day should be a good day."
That school had a lot to answer for, especially a certain Mister Heard.
"I will see our Mister Heard in the ground before I'll let him near you again, I promise," which at the time was a figure of speech; but if luck goes, if someone beat me to it. I'd become a defence lawyer just to defend the saviour of all kids.
"I can't promise everything's going to turn out right, because that would be a lie; but David, you now have something you never had before, hope, something to look forward to, and because of that, I know you will be stronger. David, you are a fighter, you have more guts than a lot of grown-ups I know."
"Do you want a drink?"
"Milk, please. Err Nan, you're still going shopping with us tomorrow?"
She looked back at David with a smile. "Of course, I am. I wouldn't miss time out with my grandson for all the tea in China."
"I love you, Nan."
"I love you too little man, more than you'll ever know..." as David wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug.
"My, I must be slipping. I didn't get one of those" making his way into the kitchen to put the kettle on, and was immediately pulled into a three-way hug.
Comments and questions are always appreciated at Terry