On the second night there, Francis and Chris took Steven to see a Wurzels tribute band (yes really) and I sat outside the caravan on a sun lounger and wrote the final chapter of the book. Here it is:
Four Go For A Final Chapter In Somerset
It’s 12th July 2011 and I’m writing this final chapter, sitting outside a caravan in Brean Sands whilst Steven has gone to the evening show with his support workers. Yes – we made it to Somerset. It might be a year late but it feels great to have eventually arrived. There is something poetic that Steven’s two support workers, F & C, who gave evidence in court have come with us and it’s all very relaxed, and dare I say it, dead normal. We packed a lot into the first day: we went to the pool and down the water slide three times; we explored the theme park and last night we drove into Burnham. That was a poignant journey, as it was the venue for our first holiday with Steven in 1997. It was an odd feeling, because although this book has been about an 18 month period that felt like 14 years; the 14 years since our first holiday have flown by as quickly as 18 months. Steven and I marked the occasion by recreating the Beautiful South video to “Perfect 10” on the pier and I found the cafe where we used to have lunch every day in 1997. Sadly, it was closed because of an “electrical fault” but that was okay because Steven doesn’t do sentimental nostalgia.
The site we’re staying at in Brean is the same place we came to in 2007 and everything looks the same four years on. I was recalling to the support workers that there were many times in 2007 that I took Steven to the pool or to the show on my own, without incident. One of the workers remarked how much Steven has changed in that four years. He was of course, referring to Steven’s behaviour. It wasn’t an unfair comment, considering there were three of us supporting Steven on the holiday, all following the “risk management” bible. When he said it though, both me and the other support worker immediately said: “No – he hasn’t changed at all”.
That thought kept me awake last night. The only thing that has changed is that Steven turned 18 and moved under the watchful, fearful eye of the Hillingdon adult social care team. And because of the unfortunate incident at the airport in 2008, he will remain stigmatised for the rest of his life. It’s chilling that, in asking for some help four years ago, we have changed our perception of our reality and doubt things that don’t need doubting.
And in the middle of my reality is Steven. He has matured greatly in the last four years. But he is still the same funny, anxious, inquisitive, chatty, frightened, adventurous, playful, intelligent, street-wise autistic young man who sat next to me on the log flume in 2007 (Holiday song: “Umbrella” by Rhianna). He has the most formidable spirit and strength that kept him going last year when it must have felt like everyone, including me, had given up on him. Observing him on holiday, thoroughly enjoying himself, trusting us and going about his holiday business with absolutely no challenging behaviour whatsoever, makes me proud and hopeful for his future.
Our idea of our reality has been stretched to near breaking point at times since 2007, but thank goodness for love and the deep bond that comes with a special knowledge of each other. That can never be taken away and that’s why we are going to be okay.