A while back, Pudding and I went to meet T at the school gate for the first time in ages. This is the mainstream primary that Pudding also attended for the first year and a bit of his school life. Loads of people noticed him and came out of their way to say hello to him – the lollipop man (probably not the right term, these days!), parents from T’s year, but also children who remembered Pudding from his time there.
I found that hard, as I knew how much he had changed in the last three years and felt that I needed to warn the children. That he might smile at them but wouldn’t interact in the way he used to. That he likes people saying hello to him but might not show it any more. I thought it would be hard for them to understand and reconcile their memories with the reality.
Later though, I thought more about it and realised that at least all these people do have memories of him, which will hopefully last. Much tougher for me to accept is that people who meet him now will never know the whole of him.
They will never know the little 5 year old who would thunder around school with a massive grin, making himself known to everyone. They’ll never have seen the Year 6’s queueing up to give him high fives. They missed him taking over the headmaster’s office and making himself comfortable in the spinning chair. They’d have to imagine him (with probably once of the worst attendence records in school) gatecrashing the ‘100% attendance breakfast’ and demanding juice.
Anyone seeing him now, passively watching the TV, wouldn’t know that once he pattered on stage at the travelling panto to ask where his favourite pantomime cow had gone. That at the donkey sanctuary he would run around telling everyone at top volume that there were ‘Dong-key!’ as if they might not have noticed. That everywhere he went, he greeted the whole world with joy and openness.
Those who don’t know him will see a child at the playground who needs to be persuaded to leave his wheelchair and clings to me for balance. They would never believe that I used to watch him like a hawk, that he would peer round at me with a cheeky grin and then make a beeline for the gate out to the road. That I would have to go from 0-60 in five seconds flat in order to catch him.
They won’t see the boy who would earnestly babble to his breakfast. Or wait at the window to watch for his Daddy to come home, then run to the door and catch him by the hand to lead him into the house. They’ve never known the delight of watching him hide behind a cushion to play peekaboo and then giggle so infectiously that you couldn’t help but join in.
Those who take the time to know him now still love him, and of course his family’s adoration has no bounds. I don’t really know what any random stranger meeting Pudding would make of him, but I do know that they have missed out on the most adorable child, more packed full of character in those few years than many people manage in a lifetime.