INCONSISTENCY AND THE GOLDEN RULE

Adults admonished me repeatedly since early childhood that hitting others is always wrong. One example was when Mom scolded me one July afternoon for becoming enraged at my brother, Roy, and scratching long bloody streaks down his back with my fingernails. I felt guilty and shocked at the sight of what I had done and vowed never to do that again.

Imagine my consternation on another summer morning when my family visited my uncle Bob, who lived just down the sidewalk from us, and somebody brought out an inflatable punching clown toy. It was the sort that had sand in its rounded bottom so that it would always return to an upright position after being hit.

“Go ahead, punch him. Hit him as hard as you can,” Dad repeated as I hesitated in front of it. The very thought horrified me. I didn’t want to punch that nice clown who never hurt me, even if he wasn’t real.

The other adults burst out laughing and insisted it was all right to hit the clown since it was only a toy. Suddenly I felt terrified. Everybody seemed to be hungrily ganging up on me.

Finally my fear of them overcame my dread of hitting another person and in frustration I socked the clown balloon. I felt absolutely miserable.

“Hit him again,” my relatives kept badgering.

A queasy feeling welled up inside me as I hit the clown toy a few more times to make them happy. It seemed fundamentally immoral to do that but everybody urged me on.

I had another crisis of conscience when Dad took the initiative to teach me how to fight one sunny summer afternoon. “Go ahead and punch me. Put up your dukes and hit me as hard as you can,” he urged.

Again I felt horrified. Weren’t we supposed to love our parents and do unto others what we wanted done to us? That ghastly feeling of doing something terribly wrong swept over me but I gave in and made a few half-hearted swats with my tiny fists.

Fortunately for me, Mom came into the master bedroom, where this madness was occurring, and put a stop to it.

“He has to learn how to fight so he won’t get beat up,” Dad argued. But Mom would have none of that and I was spared any further fighting lessons.

I wish Dad had fought harder on my behalf during another summer afternoon. A government agent came to convince my parents that they should send me to a distant institution called Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. I wrote about the consequences, both good and bad, of their fateful decision in <i>Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)</i>. Information about this memoir of residential school life, and how I survived it, is available through my <a href=”http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com”>Blogspot</a&gt; blog. I also post excerpts of my books there.

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GROWING A RELATIONSHIP.

Though I hated Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, some of its teachers were kind. Mrs. Patrick treated us as people, not problems. She became my favourite teacher as a result of her genuine compassion for us. Being far from home in a sterile institution, her love for us seemed heaven-sent.

In Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, I wrote about the time this delightful lady played a trick on me when she taught us how to grow plants. This is an excerpt which tells what happened.

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Along with the usual clothes and school work folders, Mrs. Parker allowed me to take home the plants which we grew in Mrs. Patrick’s class. I cannot recall what variety they were but I fondly remember a trick which my favourite teacher played on me. Along with my seed of whatever it was we planted, Mrs. Patrick sprinkled various other seeds which all sprouted too. “I didn’t think they’d all come up,” she admitted to me afterwards.

I took my duties seriously, having been warned that the plants would wither and die if I failed to water them. On the first day of our education in gardening, I poured a cup of water into the wooden planter as our teacher instructed. When I touched the soil, it still felt dry. I decided maybe it needed more and poured in another glass. As the dirt still felt dry, I poured a third glass into the planter.

“Brucey, stop!” Mrs. Patrick exclaimed. “You’re getting water all over the floor.” I looked down at my shoes and realized I had caused a small flood. “There are holes in the bottom of the planter so the plants won’t get too much water and drown.”

“I’m sorry for the mess,” I apologized. “Will I get in trouble for this?”

“Don’t worry, the janitor will mop this up,” she reassured.

When I showed Mom the plants, she was amazed by the colour of the dirt. It was brown and not black like the prairie soil she knew since childhood.

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Deliverance from Jericho abounds with vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Please feel free to visit http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com for more information about my writing.

Tyler House

Tyler House

This is the dorm where I spent 3 years of my life. It looks nice from the outside but living there was miserable for me and my dorm mates. We had some nasty supervisors and the kind ones didn’t stay long. Our belongings were snooped through by an official on a regular basis. Nobody had privacy either. I’m glad that most blind and visually-impaired children no longer need to be sent hundreds of miles from home for an education.

Tyler House

This is the dorm where I spent 3 years of my life. It looks nice from the outside but living there was miserable for me and my dorm mates. We had some nasty supervisors and the kind ones didn’t stay long. Our belongings were snooped through by an official on a regular basis. Nobody had privacy either. I’m glad that most blind and visually-impaired children no longer need to be sent hundreds of miles from home for an education.

FORTY-TWO YEARS OUT OF JERICHO

Did you ever hear wonderful news that you couldn’t believe? For me, leaving Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia for the very last time seemed like a distant dream. Forty-two years ago, that dream came true. Sadly, I didn’t realize it then. Had I done so, it would have been the happiest day of my childhood.

I had heard certain administrators at the school talk of students being reintegrated into the public system but I never dreamt I’d be so fortunate. In fact, this excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) shows how unreal that possibility seemed at the time.

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One evening, as we were leaving the Dining Hall, Mrs. Corrigan surprised us with a visit. Mr. Thynne instructed everybody to wait outside at the bottom of the steps while she announced something very important from the landing.

“I have good news for a few of you. Some of you children won’t be coming back in September. Instead, you’ll be attending public school near your homes.”

Our principal began listing names as my attention wandered. I doubted that I would be among those privileged students. Suddenly, she mentioned my name. That jolted me back to reality. Could that honestly happen to me? Was I actually going to be in a regular school again next autumn? It seemed too good to be true. As I feared being hurt if the administrators arbitrarily changed their minds, I restrained my hopes and dismissed such an unbelievable promise.

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I would have likewise taken the minor mishaps of travel in stride had I known that I would never again set foot in that place I so passionately despised. Here’s how my last day at the institution went.

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After all the tedious school activities were over, it was time to pack our belongings. Along with my suitcases, I decided I would bring a shopping bag filled with whatever would not fit in my luggage.

When we arrived at the airport, some of my possessions fell out of the bag at the precise moment when everybody was leaving the bus. As I felt around under the seats, Mr. Thynne said, “You’re holding us up. Why did you have to bring so much stuff anyway?” I managed to escape the bus with my luggage intact. Behind me I could hear the rest of the boys murmuring about how my accident made them late.

Apart from that mishap, my home coming was uneventful. The hard times were behind me for the moment and I knew I could relax for two glorious months.

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I’m pleased to say that i not only was enrolled in a public school much closer to my home but I graduated high school in 1975. This proved to me that I could have gone all the way through the local school system had somebody provided me with a blackboard reader and magnifying glass. This would have saved the British Columbia taxpayers thousands of dollars too.

I’m delighted that many disabled children are now educated locally and some are even home-schooled. Very few students need to be torn from their families and sent off to distant asylums for long periods of time. Instead of tearful farewells, most of these fortunate kids know they’ll be home for lunch or after classes end that day.

Please check out the http://www.inscribe.org/BruceAtchison site for more information regarding my memoirs and writing.

Deliverance from Jericho abounds with vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Please visit http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com for more information about my writing.

Dad & I in 1983

Dad & I in 1983

I visited my dad in the summer of 1983. As an adult, I was able to understand him as a man and not as the one who spent so much time in the bar. Dad apologized for that and asked for my forgiveness. I gladly gave it. He passed away in August of 1987. Though so many opportunities for father-son bonding were lost, I felt happy that he realized the error of his ways.

Dad & I in 1983

I visited my dad in the summer of 1983. As an adult, I was able to understand him as a man and not as the one who spent so much time in the bar. Dad apologized for that and asked for my forgiveness. I gladly gave it. He passed away in August of 1987. Though so many opportunities for father-son bonding were lost, I felt happy that he realized the error of his ways.

A BAD FATHER IS BETTER THAN NONE

Father’s Day can be a lonely time for children deprived of their dads through divorce or death. While their peers are happily making cards and buying presents, these unfortunate children feel unfairly excluded.

My dad was far from perfect but he occasionally demonstrated his fondness for me. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote of one sublime moment when I felt that rarely-experienced parental bond strongly. In the following vignette, I had just been flown home for the summer holidays after six months at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, B.C.

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I felt glad when I met Dad at the airport but my joy turned to disgust when he insisted on stopping at a bar on the way home. He had left me many times before in the Volkswagen with nothing to do, occasionally for hours, while he had fun with his friends. Now Dad kept me waiting once more, delaying my arrival. As my father drove through Fort Saskatchewan, the Volkswagen stalled and refused to start. After he tried to revive the engine and only succeeded in wearing down the battery, he slammed his fist in disgust on the dashboard.

It was fortunate that the breakdown happened by Ray’s Auto Body Shop, a place where I often played. The old cars were extremely entertaining to sit in. I spent many happy hours in the yard, driving to many wonderful places in my imaginary world, whenever the adults weren’t watching.

“Well, I guess that’s it for the car. Let’s walk the rest of the way home,” Dad suggested. “I’ll phone the shop and they can fix it.” I agreed and Dad unloaded my suitcases.

“Is that too heavy for you?” he asked as I picked up a case with each hand.

“It’s alright, Dad. I’m a big boy now.”

The walk home in the warm sunlight was one of those sublime moments in my life. I felt that father-son bond as we talked and strolled through the familiar streets of my home town. “I wish Dad was like this all the time,” I thought. I heartily longed for a real dad and not an alcoholic who occasionally hit Mom.

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Deliverance from Jericho abounds with vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Please feel free to visit http://www.bruceatchison.blogspot.com for more information about my writing.

When a Man Loves a Rabbit.

When a Man Loves a Rabbit.

This is the story of my life with bunnies living as house pets in my home and the astonishing discoveries I made. Far from being dull, boring carrot-eaters, these charming creatures possess well-defined characters and a startling talent for getting into mischief. This memoir covers an eight-year span of my life and contains many hilarious vignettes.

When a Man Loves a Rabbit.

This is the story of my life with bunnies living as house pets in my home and the astonishing discoveries I made. Far from being dull, boring carrot-eaters, these charming creatures possess well-defined characters and a startling talent for getting into mischief. This memoir covers an eight-year span of my life and contains many hilarious vignettes.