norman and his tides
The folklore that surrounds the origins of cerebral palsy is that the surgeon, or doctor who assisted in delivering the infant yanked too hard on his forceps at the critical time of delivery – forceps that provided him a firm grip on the evasive and soft skull of the yet to be born child – and the excessive yank damaged the baby’s Motor Cortex to such a degree that a permanently damaged spastic child was born.
Enter Norman, Norm. Born as such into a family of six at the Wilson Memorial Community Hospital at Murrurundi NSW.
Second eldest son. Father Frank, mother Eloise.
Taught not to drown in the Pages River at an early age. Shown as a ten year-old how to redhot the family unregistered ute from one side of the ten-acre paddock to the other using a broadside instead of a brake. The only one of the four boys who could safely walk into the stallion’s yard and out again. Nuzzled out by the horse.
Apprenticed to the land thereafter and never one for footwear. His sister’s favourite brother, his mother’s best work.
At eighteen Norm was as lean as a rake handle and as hard as tempered iron and to Sydney and its beaches he came a-visiting one holiday weekend, being a friend of the family.
He backed his car up the drive fast enough to scatter the dogs that morning and when Norm forcibly ejected his body from the cab and walked towards the front door it was like watching a man up to his neck in water walking against four strong tides.
Where every tide pulled every limb in a different direction and Norm fought them all step by dogged step as he had done for all his eighteen years and when he finally reached the door and bent over to kiss my wife she held his handsome head a while and I watched my two little daughters over there in the hallway staring at him open-mouthed.
His diction was all grunts and guttural combinations of a vocabulary won hard amongst his father’s itinerant employees, yet his eyes held their listener gently in their glittering intelligence.
We watched Tubular Swells that night and Norm burnt five of his fingers getting the joint lit and smoked.
Hunter bushy, just a taste.
Later, before he left, he spoke to my two daughters in his slow and tortured way, and even now, forty years on when I ask them what it was that they had talked about that night they will only smile at me, women being as they are.