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A Special Determination

On New Year's Day just over 56 years ago, in 1963, my husband was the first baby born in Scotland. You will smile that his mum was actually told that her baby would be a celebrity – and they were right! A New Year's baby was a big deal back then (and it still is to my hubby)! Added to that my husband also thinks that he is Peter Pan… he has always said that he refuses to grow old. You could say that he has that ‘stubborn man thing’ going on but I think it’s more than that.

Firstly, I must sing his praises. He is the nicest, kindest man that I know. To this day, I've never heard a bad word said about him. Never been in trouble with the law. Has always treated people with respect. Always has a smile for others. Devoted to me and has never forgotten our anniversary! Even when finances have been bad he has ALWAYS bought me a card and flowers. He buys me flowers any time really – usually when they are reduced! He is too nice really, which can be annoying – he puts others first which can be a bad thing but he’s a man and if pushed he won’t take any crap. He has a strong sense of justice and even if he takes it for a while he will say when enough is enough. A lot would say he is the perfect hubby and really he is. As we know though, perfection is relative…

When he was about 10 years old he was diagnosed with children’s arthritis. For about two years he was forced to sleep in splints. He actually broke them in his sleep, which annoyed the doctors as the aim was to make sure that his arms and legs wouldn’t twist up. Eventually, it burnt out. Despite that, he was very sporty. He was the fastest sprinter in his school at one point (even though he was racing against the oldest boys in the school). He had a passion, and I mean a PASSION for tennis and in his teens played adults… and beat them! So you would think he was fit and healthy. NOPE… determined.

What people didn’t realise was that he was constantly in pain. Well, his parents and doctors knew he was suffering but no one could really figure it out. He even had one doctor tell him it was all in his head! From time to time he would have a good specialist and they would treat him but they didn’t take as many blood tests as they should have. They knew he was tired and worn out and in constant pain but had nothing to go on. It was only when he was 28, six months before we got married, that he ‘put his back out’ and went to see a private physio – after a week of physio he was told to go find a specialist as he had ankylosing spondylitis.

A Special Determination

Finally, he had something to go on. He had been held back for years in life. When he left school at 16 he always worked and tried to live a normal life but he would come home from work and go to bed he was so tired. Once in the summer when walking home from work he didn’t have the strength to walk up the hill home and fell asleep on the grass at the side of the road. He told me that he was so worn out that he didn’t care what people thought as there was just no way he could make it up the hill. People didn’t understand and a lot still don’t. To this day, I still apologise to him for tickling him – I knew he wasn’t well but you don’t always take things that seriously when you are younger. The poor guy; we laugh about it but… Anyway, I remember, my now sister-in-law, laughing and saying that she never even met my hubby until the wedding as every time she came round, my hubby was asleep. I remember once when a load of us were out for drinks one night that one of my friends told me he was ‘manic depressive’… They weren’t being mean, but as an early 20 something that is what people thought if you weren’t fit and healthy. Those things still grate on me. I knew he was down at times and it was before we started “seeing” each other but he was such a nice guy that I wasn’t sure. Basically, he was held back in life due to ill health and none of us really appreciated his situation. It’s sad really.

Anyway, one day I called him about something and that phone call did it. It hit me how nice and kind he was and a year later, on the first day of spring in 1992, we got married. We’ve now been married for 27 years and he is still the caring thoughtful person that I married. He gets grumpy due to pain at times, he obviously gets down at times, he is tired a lot of the time, he can no longer work which brings it’s stresses, I also decided to stop work and stay at home and look after him. Our marriage hasn’t been perfect, we’ve had the stresses and strains like all couples, but despite all, we have still had fun times. Just before we got married I would joke and say that I would probably be pushing him around in a wheelchair by the time he is 40. He isn’t in a wheelchair yet. He has definitely slowed down over the years and has suffered the usual ‘medical conditions’ and diagnosis that go with arthritic conditions. He has now been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. That is the latest but basically, his spine, neck, ribs etc have fused. He breaths less deeply than he should due to rib pain. They say the fusing is in remission but obviously there are still the side affects of the damage over the years. His knees are shot, the arches in his feet have collapsed, he can’t sit straight in a chair, can’t sit for long in any chair really and spends half the time on the floor kneeling or propped on a beanbag. His neck is slightly curved and he can’t stand straight, he even has gout which one doctor tutted at as “no young man gets gout”. Yes, he is falling apart.

You can imagine the comments from time to time from people when he was in his late 20’s/early 30’s – “You’re too young to be sick”, “A young man like you…!” It can knock you and make you question your life. He never thought he would get married. He was on the verge of becoming “mummy’s boy” as he didn’t see the point of getting his own place. His dad loved him but there was obviously a disappointment even though it was never said. Fortunately, we married a year to the day before his dad died which was fantastic as his dad was a wonderful man and we spent that last week at his bedside, sleeping at the hospital and then grabbing a taxi home to get ready for work before returning that night. It was a really tough time but so glad that we made the effort and did it. He got to see that his frail, 'probably never leave home' son had grown into a man and was caring and responsible.

Obviously, I have played my part and supported my husband. Some might say it’s dutiful. It is, but why not? He deserves it. Of course, it’s a stress but that is life. He says that marrying me was the best decision that he ever made and he is right! Seriously though, the thing is, there are so many in this world that struggle with physical and emotional problems and if only they had the right support… it can make a huge difference to a person just knowing that someone cares. NO! You don’t have to marry them – just let them know that you care. It could make all the difference. I feel so much for those who have been through bad times and lose their family, home and children when if they had been able to stick together, with the right support, it might have saved a family. Maybe not, but it’s something to think about if you are wondering if you should stay or go.

Anyway, the big reason I decided to write about this today is… I’ve always known my husband has had a drive to keep going and that is partly due to having my support. BUT what really hit me today, was that his older brother told him that they expected him to be in a wheelchair by the age of 21. WHAT?!!! This is the first that we heard of this. I’m still in shock.

What is sad, is this confirms the low expectations that his family had of him and the low confidence that my husband had. His confidence obviously grew over the years but we have discussed confidence and not achieving dreams on many an occasion over the years. He always said that marrying me was the best thing that he did and now I know why. We’ve supported each other and now have a 20 year old son. We have never had a lot of money and never had a ‘REAL’ holiday but we’ve always had a roof over our heads and we’ve survived the 24/7 of annoying each other. Life can really suck at times, but don’t knock people or let them knock you just because of the lack of the latest gadgets or that they can’t just hop in the car for a nice day out or afford to go out to dinner with you. If they could do it, they would. Be glad that families can survive and stick together even if life is mundane and not full of adventure.

So, hearing what my brother-in-law said made me realise how much determination my husband has had. I knew he was determined and life hasn’t been perfect; it’s been a daily struggle, he has lived with chronic pain since his teens, not even taking drugs at times, he fought to keep working for over 20 years when many have given up in the 20’s or early 30’s. He fought hard to have a “normal” life. That’s a special determination.

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