“You are now free…” she said, with an authority I had never heard. And it was good!
More or less ten months ago I was waking up after an operation to remove some bits of metal from my leg. It was painful yes, but not in the physical way most would assume. I can take physical pain, not in some macho, double hard bastard kind of way, but for some reason I have an odd ability to convince myself it is all in the mind. Which it is!
After I sobered from my wonderful chemical embrace, the doc had some news for me that change my life forever. Three simple words that felt like a slow motion bullet, sent by an angel to smash my heart and resonate all the way to my inner being. A rainbow of confusion followed by extreme clarity that at first I put down to the morphine. “NO MORE FOOTBALL, Mr Johnson.”
The doctor had to explain this unfamiliar term to me a few times before it sunk in but after it did I did not feel angry, I was not even particularly sad. There was just one sole purpose that had now overcome my entire being and boy was she coming on strong. The voice that had been always suppressed, always pushed away, always ignored was louder and so acute that I felt as if I had been living under water my entire life. “You are now free, there are no more barriers in your life to stop you.”
After a few weeks, several more procedures, and more happy juice, my mind cleared and wave upon wave of realisation hit my head like a jackhammer. At first I considered it was all down to the shock of the injury and the fact my entire world had been turned upside down. During this time of reflection I was basically an invalid, I needed help getting out of bed, help to get in and out of the shower, even trying to make a cup of tea was a nightmare due to the fact I could only stand on one leg and had to use crutches to hobble around. I would like to say I had a nurse or hand maiden to help me with all this as that would have been great. Instead I had a brother who had to see his older sibling, the person he looked up to and relied upon for support, in a weakened state. Unable to be the rock I always was, I had been chipped down to a naked pebble.
I have looked after my brother for many years since we were teenagers. We are each others best mates and I think that if we had not shared those early days living in the backs of vans or sleeping in friends living rooms, scrapping around for a place to wash or something to eat, neither of us would have made it. If it was not for my brother I would not have excelled in a career, his needs pushed my pursuit for money, my love pushed his support to help us succeed. However, before me now was not a needy child who needed a father figure, before me was a fellow man who had the decency to suffer along with his brother in their time of need. He had to do most things for me, help me dress, make me meals, help me to walk and he performed this unselfish act without a single grumble or negative word.
So the voice in my head was not only telling me that I was free to be myself as I could no longer play football, I am free because my brother no longer needs me to look after him, my duty is complete and now we are both free. I am proud to have been a part of his coming of age, as I am sure he will be supportive in mine.