Thursday, 2 October 2008
Johnny - A Personal Memory
The picture is entitled Love Locked Out.
I have decided to paste some of my old entries over here. Forgive me if you have already read them but I want to make sure that they are saved so I am picking out certain items to transfer to this new journal.
As I grew and matured I began to learn the lessons of life and this entry is about one person who taught me so very much.
His name was Johnny. When I was about ten years old he and his family moved in next door but one to my Grandmother in London. He was four years older than me. Johnny and I used to talk across the garden fences and now and again his mother would bring him into Nan's. His mother, you might ask, at fourteen? Yes. You see Johnny had Down's Syndrome although it was called by a much worse name in those days. He was particularly badly affected by it and had a lot of trouble with his speech but to the amazement of everyone, he mastered my name. In fact, apart from his mum, I was about the only person who could understand what he was saying so I would be his translator.
Johnny loved life, Johnny loved everything and it was him who taught me that there is beauty in everything however mundane. "Pretty" he would say as he caressed a flower with his stumpy fingers or brush it softly against his cheek before handing it to me. "Pretty" he would say as he picked up a pebble or a piece of seashell my Nan used as decorations in her garden. "Pretty" he would say as he placed into my lap his latest collection of finds - maybe a dead insect, a bird's feather , a snail shell or handed me a posy of wilted Daisies. Through him I came to see things in a new light.
Johnny loved to hug and he hugged everyone - me, my mother, my nan, my aunt, my uncle. My nan always had her front door open and an endless procession of visitors would call. Johnny would tightly hug each newcomer. You could see the obvious disgust on some of the faces - usually if they did not live close by and knew nothing of him. Johnny never saw the disgust, he just saw love. They were people and people were made to love as far as he was concerned. He did not judge whether they were old or young, fat or thin, tall or short, kind or mean, they were loved just the same. He taught me not to judge on appearance but always look into the soul of a person.
Johnny was never unhappy although I was unhappy for him as I came to realise that he could never marry, never have children and Johnny loved children. His elder brother and sister both had youngsters and although he was not allowed near the babies, his face beamed with joy. It seemed so cruel to me that a being filled with so much love would never be able to share it in the truest sense of the word. I also knew, through overheard conversations, that his siblings had made it plain that when something happened to the parents, neither of them wanted Johnny and he would have to go into an institution to live his life forever behind thick walls, shut away from the flowers and sunshine.
Johnny had other health problems and now and again would be sick in bed when I visited my nan. I missed him, it was never quite the same without him, but he always came bouncing back. "I wuv ooo Jeannette" he would call across the gardens to me. I answered - "I love you too Johnny" and I meant it. I had learned to see past his disability, past his speech defect. I saw him for what he was. A unique and wonderful, kind and gentle human being. I saw his soul shining through and that soul was beautiful.
I have always tried since those far away days, never to judge a person until I get to know them, never to judge by appearance and always to look for the good in people. Of course, being human, we cannot like everyone, there are unpleasant people in this world, but I would never judge by disability, colour, religion, size or anything else. To do so would dishonour Johnny's memory and deprive myself of knowing some very special people. All my life since then I have seen beauty in little things. I can never see the dew on the roses without thinking of Johnny nor pick up a stone without thinking "pretty".
As for Johnny, God had other plans for him. He died in his sleep when he was twenty-one years old. A light went out. The whole street, the local shopkeepers, dustmen, postmen - they all grieved for this bright star that had been extinguished. He had touched so many lives and hearts in his brief life. I still see his beaming smile in my mind. I shall always be grateful that I knew him and I loved him and that he loved me and everyone else. I am proud that I was the only one that had the honour of being called his "girlfriend".
Sleep well Johnny.