Archive | April, 2017

Stories

8 Apr

Long Exposure with old Pentax 35mm lens

When I was about 10 years old, my family (parents, younger sister and brother) went on one of our camping trips to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. We always stayed at the Ponderosa campground there and this time was no different. We had a state-of-the-art pop-up camper called a Nimrod, a good solid Old Testament name which means “mighty hunter.” I always had fun at the Ponderosa Campground…each morning I would embark on a hunt for perfect seashells. This was back in the day when you could allow your children to walk on the beach by themselves. I always saved my money for these camping vacations so that I could go to the camp store and buy a souvenir for myself, usually a comic book. It’s always a good idea to have fine reading material at the beach, and I knew that even at the tender age of ten.

This particular trip was different, exciting and we all lived to tell about it. A water spout, which is basically a tornado on water, ripped through the campground one night while we were there. It was a very violent, windy and rainy storm that was scary for our parents as well as the three of us kids. My mother and father stood outside the rocking camper and held it down while the three of us stayed inside. I white knuckle clutched my red letter edition Holy Bible with the white leather cover and a zipper and prayed as hard as any ten year old could pray while my sister, 8 years old and my brother, 5 years old wailed. I don’t remember what promises and bargains I made with God that night, but I hope I’ve fulfilled them all. We survived, unscathed. No pine trees fell on us, and the stakes and poles of the add-a-room were not ripped out of the ground. We were camped up on a little knoll (in the cheaper campsites, not the more expensive ones on the beach front) and so the family with six kids in the big canvas tent down in the little valley below us got all the water. The adults were up to their knees in rainwater, but they survived, too. And the big “slide-slide” ( do y’all remember those?) down the beach from our campground was almost completely gone…nothing left but the steel frame. The expensive beach front campsites didn’t fare well, either.

Forever after, I told this exciting story to anyone who would listen. It had been the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me and I loved a good dramatic story where the good people survive. It was one of my favorite stories to tell to anyone who would listen.

A few years ago, at a family Christmas gathering with all the next generation kids gathered around, my little brother, the 5 year old in my story, told this 40+ year old story. And, remarkably, he told it from MY point of view! In his story, he was the kid clutching a bible and praying to God while his two older sisters cried. As he told my story, I said nothing. I just stared at him in total disbelief. He didn’t even own a bible at the age of 5 and if he had owned one, he couldn’t have read it since he wasn’t in school and we didn’t have kindergarten back then. (Well, only the rich kids went to kindergarten.) But, I remained silent and listened to him tell my story. I did not correct him.

I had a rare moment of realization instead. I had told that story so many times, it had become his story, too. The story became his memory of what he experienced as a five year old boy. My story was also his story. In essence, it was our story. A family story.

I have mixed feelings about all that. Having my story become a part of the “canon” of our family’s stories is sort of an honor. On the other hand, when does a story like this become YOUR story, one that you own and in which you are fully present? Rather than recounting my story, I would like to hear my brother tell this story from his point of view as a terrified five-year-old.

For years, I rarely mentioned to anyone my “story” of having XLH, how I felt as a child wearing braces or going to the doctor a lot, having my blood drawn, etc. I know that some of my friends were surprised that I even had a genetic “condition” when I “came out” a few years ago. Initially, many of my stories were stories of how others acted in my story…how my grandmother felt and how my parents felt about having a child or grandchild with XLH. It’s true, though, that their points of view are part of my story. But they’re not the whole story. As I have become more actively involved in taking care of myself as an adult with XLH, reading and writing about the disease, going to doctors and participating in clinical trials, it has become MY story. I own this now. I am not telling someone else’s story, but I am telling mine.

And my story has been a little bit of a wild ride and sometimes I feel like I’m a kid clutching my Holy Bible in a tiny little pop-up camper of a body while the winds rock it back and forth, wondering how this is all going to turn out. Wondering what promises and bargains I can make to God to insure my safety in the end. But through this, I have been surrounded by some kind souls who have prayed for me or helped hold down the fort (especially Professorgrrl!) or have just been quietly present, asking how I’m doing occasionally but not too much.

It is my story, yes, but I am not alone in it.

 

IMG_0123

Copyright 2017, Banjogrrldiaries and S. G.  Hunter