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A Shout From The Attic: Mummy-Daddy Years - 2

...When Matt was three, he often looked after the shop for me when I went to the grocery store further down Lockwood Road to buy Maltesers for breakfast. Both Matt and I were convinced that candy made a better breakfast than cereal...

Ronnie Bray continues his autobiography.

When Matt was three, I was concerned that he was not progressing normally. So, I bought the book, So You Want to Raise a Boy! I learned that he was normal for his age. I stopped worrying. The book said that the age of three was a golden year for boys.

When Matt was three, He climbed into my bed every morning and asked me about everything under the sun. Looking around the room his busy eyes fastened on the lamp bulb and he asked how they were made. He asked how everything he could see or think of was made. Each day we spent a morning hour in bed with his questions. His appetite for learning was insatiable.

When Matt was three, he didn’t go up to bed at bedtime because he hated being alone. I understood, and let him sleep on the fur rug in the warmth of the gas fire in our living room, behind our fancy goods shop on Lockwood Road. When I went up to bed, I carried him and put him to bed, tucked him in, and kissed him goodnight.

When Matt was three, I asked him what he would like for dinner. His reply was disarming: “I want to eat in a man’s house!” He was not keen on my cooking and wanted to go to a restaurant. So, we drove the Jaguar to the Highball Chinese Restaurant at Longroyd Bridge, where he devoured plates of chicken, chips, peas, and gravy, and smiled at me across the table as if to say, "This is the life, Dad!"

When Matt was three, he often looked after the shop for me when I went to the grocery store further down Lockwood Road to buy Maltesers for breakfast. Both Matt and I were convinced that candy made a better breakfast than cereal. Once, I talked to the shopkeeper a little longer than usual, and was surprised to see Matt march in and announce, "There are some Urdu talkers in the shop!" So we went home and served our Pakistani customers.

When Matt was three, he went to Sunday School, where he asked intelligent questions about theology. His mind was quick and analytical, and he forgot nothing. His understanding of who God and Jesus were, amazed seasoned preachers. He stood on a chair and talked about the Gospel to a group of impressed missionaries, fielding their questions with a profundity that was persuasive, coupled with his unquestioning faith.

When Matt was three, he had the most beautiful eyes ever seen on a boy. His long curling dark eyelashes were the envy of the sisters. When asked to look at his eyes, he rolled them to the side of his face and looked so cute that all who witnessed it would melt into a chorus of soft cooing “Aahs.”

When Matt was three, he had a wide vocabulary, in which there were no baby words. He was encouraged to use correct words and phrases since he first attempted speech. He impressed people unused to articulate conversation from a toddler. His favourite phrase was “Expanded polystyrene.”

When Matt was three, his mother and I divorced, and I was granted custody. A social worker called around every couple of months to see how this single father was looking after his cherubic boy. He was obviously satisfied with the results because he only made three visits.

When Matt was three, Bishop McEwen presented me with a rose in church on Mother’s Day, dedicating it to ‘one of the best mothers in the ward.’ It was easy to be mother to a lad who called me “Mummy-Daddy.”

When Matt was three, he sat in the drivers’ seat of our minivan and steered us home as I pushed, when we ran out of petrol.

When Matt was three, he had bronchitis and pneumonia. I sat at his bedside for five nights, watching him, helping him to breathe, and praying for his recovery.

When Matt was three, he was twice as delightful as when he was two. Nevertheless, he had not peaked. The years passed and Matt grew. His intelligence was widely known. He read books about cats, learning almost everything about them, together with their mysterious history.

When Matt was three, it was evident to everyone that met him that he was an unusual boy. Ladies adored him, while the range of his knowledge, and the power with which he expressed himself impressed everyone.

When Matt was three, he asked about the stars. During the year he was nine, he sat in class wrapt in thought. His teacher, noticing his lack of attention, asked what he was thinking about. “Supernovas, sir.” he replied without affectation. “Aha. Now I’ve got him!” thought the teacher. He said, “Come out here, Matt, and tell the class about supernovas. And, to my astonishment,” explained the kind Mr Bermingham, “he did just that!”

Now he is a man. I still see the boy in the man, and rejoice that the tenderness and open simplicity that were his in childhood are still there. He maintains his ability to marvel and wonder at each new thing, and takes sunshine wherever he goes.

He was the easiest child for a man to bring up alone, bearing each of childhood’s ills uncomplainingly. He cut his teeth silently, until his wisdom teeth erupted at thirty-something. He had all four removed in Leeds General Infirmary, and came home to be nursed until he was well enough to return to Bradford.

I watched him, as I had done in old times, his head on the pillow in the darkness, his jaw badly swollen from dental surgery, but he seemed at peace in sleep. As I looked at my son through the dusk with ageing eyes, the years fell away and I saw again my angel boy as in that golden year when Matt was three, and my heart overflowed with love.

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