Sunday 09 November, 2014 by Uncle Spike
This being the first of my posts about volunteering, I wanted to share a story that gives me warm goosey-bumpers even when I sit here decades later writing this post.
When young Spike was about 18(?), yes I can remember that far back, just…, I did a few volunteering weeks and fortnights over a couple of years at a holiday home for the physically disabled, or handicapped (terminology varies depending on political correctness and country it seems).
The basic principle was that folk with severe physical issues often require round-the-clock care, and this is all too often given unceremoniously by family members, predominantly ever-ageing parents. This holiday home provided a ‘holiday’ for physically disabled youth and adults in order to give both them and their carers some quality time of their own.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So on with the story….
One guest that I remember, whom I shall call Roy, was a guy in his late 50s. He was a jolly chap, with a wicked sense of humour, and the patience of a saint with all of us willing, but very amateur ‘volunteers’ who were always making mistakes as one does, but he never complained, not once.
But there again, communicating anything was a huge task for Roy, so complaining just didn’t really come into his world. I know he could have if he had wanted to though, for he wasn’t short on comment when it came to the ladies, football (soccer), or boxing…
Roy was a former British soldier, a decorated infantryman no less, but when I knew him, he was permanently laid out in a horizontal wheelchair; you see, Roy had been a sufferer of Motor Neurone Disease (or a variation of) for over 15 years, and was perhaps 97% immobile. He could just about talk, on a good day, but mostly he used a pointer board with his teeth. There were no digitised voice machines back then, not for guys like Roy at least.
But do you know what, I never felt sad about Roy’s circumstance. He was always upbeat, and whilst it took some 25 minutes to perform, he would always start the day with a joke after washing and dressing him. He said that as we were volunteers, we deserved a special treat each day. Who was caring for who?
Lump, throat… definitely
It was Roy’s birthday one year I saw him, and we turned tables on him and said he could have anything he wanted, providing it was physically and financially possible. Although boxing was a firm favourite of his throughout his life, Roy hadn’t been to a match for many years, and so his birthday request was to watch a video of a match with us as his entourage 🙂
Stuff that – the very next day took him to see a live boxing match!
It took some arranging, but unbeknown to him, the centre’s manager loved the idea, and we took Roy, a member of staff and three of us volunteers to see a boxing match in Croydon that night. The guys at the match were superb, and we were given an elevated position from which Roy could watch the match with his head tilted on one side, still laying prone on his bed/chair.
It was an emotional evening. One boxer won, and the other lost, but what mattered most was the look in Roy’s eyes, and the slow, but very deliberate message he tapped out on his pointing board….
“T H A N K Y O U G U Y S !! XXXXX”
Sometimes we forget that money, position, fame and possessions simply do not matter in this world. I learned a great deal from my time with Roy, and hope and pray that my son can find his own Roy in time. I never saw Roy again; but I reckon his last birthday was at least a special one.