This is the story of my Welsh Grandfather, Edward Jones, 1903-1987.
Planets pirouette around the sun, wars waver around words, and my life hinged around juvenile high jinks. Had I heeded my Mam's warning, bowed to my Dad's better judgement, then the sun would have gone on shining. But we 'little ones' so envied my big brother's shiny new darts that we determined to defy all prohibitions and get our stubby fingers on them!
Our chance came the day he first went with Dad down the coal mine. We stood in the street at 5 a.m. waving our big brother goodbye. That night he would come home a man. Mam put on her best hat and went to buy a duck to celebrate her first-born son's transition to adulthood. She pecked Tom and me on the foreheads, and was gone with a “Be good boys now”.
She wasn't out of sight before the dart-board was hanging in the back yard.
“You go first.” Thomas was nearly two years my junior and still had that respect that little kids have for eight-year-old siblings.
My first dart fell short, landing in the onion patch. The second hit the brick wall with a too-loud crack. The third, “Bullseye!” I cried jubilantly.
“Careful Eddie. All we need is for nosey Mrs Evans to look out her window and we'll catch it!”
Moments later Mrs Evans was in our yard, cradling me in her arms. I was screaming for Mam and wondering why my right eye was on fire and who had put out the sun. Thomas was blubbering that he was sorry, that he had aimed right for the board, that he wished he'd never picked the dart out of the onion patch...
“All right, enough of that!” interrupted Mrs Evans when she could bear his tearful prattle no longer. “What's done's done. Go get a hanky from ya Mam's linen drawer, and let's be cleaning up young Eddie.”
I must have fainted then. I woke up on the couch in the front room surrounded by the familiar smell of Dad's pipe tobacco. Mrs Evans was holding a wet handkerchief to my shredded eye, softly crooning a Welsh folk song.
Mam arrived and then everything happened very fast. Dad and Will came back from the pit. We all went to the hospital. The doctors were talking in loud whispers using long words that amounted to the fact that they could not save my eye. I felt a mask over my face...
Things are different now. Had my accident happened to one of my grand-daughters they would have been left with one seeing eye. But I awoke from my operation in the shadow lands and there I stayed.
Sighted people sometimes ask the strangest questions. How do you know that your tie goes with your shirt? How do you remember where you left your fountain pen? How did you fall in love with your wife? And, the worst of all, Don't you get bored?
Bored? Bored of loving my daughter? Bored of feeling the sunshine on my face? Bored of my soul soaring heavenwards as I listen to Bach's Christmas Oratorio or Handel's Messiah?
I'll admit my work was repetitive. Twang the string... tighten... tighten... just a little more, there! Twang the next string... But there's no room for boredom when a little girl or a grown man coaxes a tune from the ivory keys, sighing with delight at the harmonies made perfect. I knew all their favourite melodies, along with the memories they evoked. Those shared secrets were priceless, the perks of my job!
No, boredom has not featured in my life. Nor bitterness. Mam banished all thought of that the night I came home from hospital with her, “Now Eddie, you hug young Tom, and let him know he's still your favourite little brother. He'll be your eyes from now on.”
I eventually figured out why I had to be blinded. Were I not blind I'd have worked down the pit and spent my evenings down the pub. I'd have never met Alice. We'd have never had Mar. She'd not have come home from college with the wonderful news of a Saviour. So then, if I hadn't spent this life in the shadow lands, I'd have spent all of eternity in blackness.
Instead I'm looking towards the dawn. The next face I'll see will be Jesus' and on that day the radiance of the Son will dispel the shadows once and for all.
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