Eddie and I got on really well for the first few months, I can remember being quite fascinated by his hairy chest and asking him why he was so ‘furry’! My Mother insisted I call him ‘Daddy’, and he and I shared a few humorous moments, one being when he decided to teach me how to play Chess – not his wisest decision ever! Still being very young at the time I couldn’t grasp any of the rules, and insisted that my ‘horsey’ [the knight] could move in any direction I wanted him to, the idea was not well-received and Eddie soon abandoned this rather fruitless task! I can also recall giggling heartily one day when he told me very proudly that throughout his time at the Polish Military Academy he had always been ‘toppest’ of his Class in English! Sadly, those happy times were all too short-lived, and as the months passed the arguments between Eddie and Simon, and inevitably of course my Mother, grew more frequent and far more serious. Simon had already had too many ‘Dads’ and was not about to accept another one, and Eddie was not the kind of man you bad-mouthed and got away with it! He had a strong character, he was tough, ex-army, and like most beleaguered Eastern Europeans of his generation he was of the opinion that if you had some kind of roof over your head, food in your stomach, and no-one was trying to kill you, then you really had nothing to complain about! The basement was probably his idea of comfort and the ‘good life’! He had come from a very poor farming family, and often told us that as children, he and his siblings would have to stand around the table at meal-times until the adults had eaten their fill, then they were allowed to eat whatever was left. It had to be that way because the adults had to have the physical strength to do all the hard, manual labour on the farm otherwise they would all have starved – that had been his childhood! He showed me a picture of his Father once, a huge, granite-faced man with cold, dead eyes. He was terrifying!
Although I had been used to fights and disputes breaking out between children at the Home, grown-ups like Mum and Eddie, and even an older child like Simon, yelling and screaming at each other the way they all did was something very new to me. It was much more frightening and very much more disturbing. I couldn’t get away from it either, as I had been able to at the Childrens Home, there I had always known when to walk away, usually moments before a fight broke out, but now I was trapped in the middle of all that anger with nowhere else to go, and it terrified me. I think it was the barely contained rage that erupted from both Eddie and Simon that I found so alarming, Eddie would just get so incensed, and Simon would keep talking back and provoking him, refusing to back down. They often ended with my Mother pushing her way between the two of them, usually taking Simons’ side which of course enraged Eddie even more. He saw that as flagrantly undermining his authority, and the air would positively crackle with tension until he eventually calmed down again… until the next time. It wasn’t a pleasant way to live, and I soon went back to burying my head under my pillows at night, fighting back my tears, trying in vain to block out the awful sound of Eddie and my Mother screaming at each other in the next room. Naturally I blamed Eddie for everything and staunchly supported my Mother, convinced nothing could ever be her fault and Eddie was just being mean to her.
I suppose it wasn’t really surprising Eddie and Simon didn’t get on - there was at least a thirty-year age gap between them, in addition to which they were two very different people from two entirely different Worlds! The moment Eddie had looked into Simons eyes he’d realized he’d just made the biggest mistake of his life allowing his beguiling lover to talk him into bringing her son to live with them. As an ex-Army Officer Eddie had been able to ‘read’ men and he had instantly seen something my Mother had neither seen nor understood at all – consciously or otherwise, Simon was out for revenge. The eyes staring back at him had not been the eyes of a hurt, vulnerable ‘little boy’ desperately needing a home and ‘a Father’, the child she had described to him, the ‘child’ he had been expecting…no, he’d found himself gazing into the shrewd, challenging eyes of an assertive, surprisingly confident young man, every bit as strong-willed as his Mother, in fact, one seemed to gain strength from the other merely by being in the same room together! Eddie had known right then that his home had just become a battlefield, but unfortunately the scene was set for a fight even a seasoned soldier like Eddie had no idea how to win! Nothing in his military life had prepared him for anything like this! What my Mother had completely failed to grasp in this decidedly fraught scenario she had so recklessly pieced together, was the extent of the very real emotional and physical harm that had been done to Simon, not only by her before she had put him into the Home, but also in the Home itself. She always refused to think about anything ‘unpleasant’, particularly if it might reflect badly upon her, so as far as she was concerned nothing untoward had happened… everything was fine…case closed, but far too much HAD happened and Simon was no longer the sweet, malleable little boy she had deposited in the Home that day - by that time he had developed quite a few emotional problems of his own.
Even before he had been sent away to Brighton Simons’ home life had always been turbulent, nothing had ever been stable, or secure. He had seen too many people come and go, called too many men ‘Daddy’ or 'Uncle’. Some he had been pleased to see leave, but others not. He had watched siblings he’d loved and cared about being taken away and put into Homes, and then, one day, the unthinkable had happened to him too, despite all his Mothers promises to the contrary. He had always been the ‘favoured’ child, the one with the ‘special’ place in her heart, it must have come as the most appalling shock to him when he too found himself abandoned in a Home just like all the others. He had believed her, loved her, trusted her, and although everything around him had always changed she had always been there, loving him, reassuring him, but then she had betrayed him, and by doing so had thrust a knife deep into his young, vulnerable heart. At eight years old he had been a handsome, gentle, good-mannered, well-spoken young boy, an easy target for the older, rougher children at his new Home. He had been bullied, assaulted, and traumatised, his heart and soul profoundly hurt and forever changed by far too many harmful experiences for any young person to survive and still be emotionally 'whole’. He had become a troubled and difficult youngster, hiding behind a façade of toughness and confidence yet with a turbulent heart full of repressed anger and pain. He was a little over eleven years old by then and far more harm had been done to him than could ever be cured by a few hugs and kisses, or a shiny new bike. He was slowly turning into a young man, but that young man was in pain, and Eddie was right, he had an axe to grind, whether he knew it consciously or not! As if to perversely exacerbate an already extremely tense and difficult situation Eddies’ Doctor chose that particular moment to change his medication, and put him on a new, more powerful pain-killer which he believed would more effectively suppress Eddies’ agonising and increasingly debilitating phantom pain. Unfortunately, despite the manufacturers assurances that their new drug was completely safe and non-addictive, Eddie did become addicted to it, and from that moment on both his mental and physical health began a rapid, downward spiral that nothing would curtail.
The next instalment of this true life story will be posted on 1st March 2020.
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