Imagine, you are bounded in a nutshell.
Suppose, for the last fifteen years or so – or half your life, if that’s easier – you have been confined in one of those cage things which people who have an Aga and old boots in their kitchen have for their dogs to escape into, to keep them safe from un-doggy guests.
A bit like Horatio’s comfy bed (above) only with bars around it. The size of Wandsworth Prison, in Horatio’s case, obviously, because Shaun’s dog is about ten foot high when he stands up. Except that this cage we’re talking about, unlike a friendly doggy-cage, is one you can’t stand up in.
And it hasn’t made you feel safe, because you’ve been locked in it. Asking, for as long as you can remember, for someone, anyone, to help you escape.
At last, someone with a key comes to help you. The cage is unlocked and you are eased out, to stand on your feet for the first time in half a lifetime.
What do you feel? A sense of exhilarating freedom? Or howling, excruciating pain? The agony of muscles unused for years…
Perhaps also terror and apprehension, at learning to walk again. Very likely a terrible sense of loss.
Last Sunday our eldest, Serena, went to visit Bink in the Priory. Also Serena’s Viking husband, and little rampaging, amok-running, chaos-making and general-reorganising-of-the-world, fruit of the six-foot-something-Viking’s-loins, Serena’s one-year-old mini Viking. Who apparently left the hospital intact, on this occasion. Mysteriously. Must have been plotting the overthrow of something else I suppose.
They had a lovely, long and leisurely day together.
But Serena also said Bink was tearful. She has lost so much of her life; so many opportunities have passed her by; so many snows of yesteryear have melted leaving nothing on the bare, beaten grass beneath.
Bink has no little Vikings, of any nationality, to run amok at her childless feet.
At Bink’s age, I had four. (Five, if you count my first book.)
Every day, I wake grateful that Bink is getting treatment at last. But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Probably a very great deal.
Mind you, staying ill hurts a lot too.
Five years ago we didn’t know where Bink was. We didn’t know she had just been in a psychiatric hospital for a month, having been found with ligatures round her neck. We didn’t know where she spent that Christmas. Nor that she eventually, very deliberately, made herself homeless, in a desperate and very dangerous – and unsuccessful – bid for treatment.
By the time I asked a handful of friends if they would pray with me, a few years ago, and started sending them regular email updates, she hadn’t been in touch with home for longer than I can remember.
Last week she rang every day. Until Wednesday, when she rang just to “sign off”, and tell me what I knew already: that she was starting the Priory’s ATP bootcamp the next day and wouldn’t be allowed any contact for a week.
And to wish her grandfather a happy 101st birthday this coming Wednesday, because she won’t be allowed to ring on the day.
How’s that for a turn up for the books? God does sometimes answer prayer.
Miracles do happen.
Just… sometimes you have to wait a while…
PS Many apologies. I was in Cambridge this morning, recording some scenes from my forthcoming book, so I scheduled today’s post in advance – for 10pm by mistake. (You can’t be good at everything, can you? Or indeed, anything perhaps… As I said, sometimes miracles take a while.)