I spent most of my institutional life in Goldenbridge after the age of nine always looking outside a tall top rainy Sacred Heart wet-the-bed dormitory window on Sunday afternoons. I watched all the visitors as they came up the long avenue with brown paper parcels under their arms or netted bags filled with fruit, comics or little bags of sweets. I always cried into the sleeve of my jumper, as I knew there was never going to be a visitor calling for me. There was one particular man who always stood out in my mind because of his sheer bravery and determination in wending his way slowly up the long avenue despite grave difficulty. I watched him like a hawk as he dragged himself and his bad leg intermittently at a snails pace with the aid of a crutch. He always had such a big brown paper parcel under his arm. He visited his one and only daughter. I know that she loved him to bits. He was so kind to her. His daughter shared her oranges and apples afterwards with the children. He had her trained to be kind to other institutional children. She was one child, I remember, who had a contented look on her face – which cannot be said for the rest of the children.
To this day, I have a recurrent memory of always looking outside the top Sacred Heart window and it overwhelms me with sadness. I’ve also never understood why the Boyne family who started taking me out before my communion at the age of six or thereabouts never tried to keep in contact after I was sent back for good to Goldenbridge. I know that I was not related to them, but surely to goodness, they must have known what it must have done psychologically to have just walked away forever from a child who had already been bereft of a normal family? Where was their conscience in all of this at all, I often ask myself bewilderingly? To this day when I find myself looking outside at others having all the fun, friendship and care and warmth I know well not to expect anything. I instantaneously get flashbacks and am transported back to the time when it was never any different. It’s horses for courses. I was never wanted then and don’t expect to be wanted now. I found out as an adult that I’d been found wandering aimlessly in O’Connell St. and was swiftly recalled and sent back to the institution. It would have been somewhat healing if the Boyne family had come up to visit me. I would have had no reason to look out the window and cry into my sleeve, but instead, perhaps have looked out in anticipation at when somebody was to arrive for me. It would have made a difference. I would not have felt so utterly forlorn and isolated.
My uncle who died recently was one person who made up to me for that particular loss I felt as a child and of which had serious repercussions to my adult emotional and psychological persona. He healed a wound. If only he’d known that he’d a niece looking out a window of a strange, friendless, cold; dark; dank; miserable; loveless institution, I know that he would have rescued me and brought me to a relation to stay with and made sure I was cared for and loved.
Alas, there are countless people who run miles away from survivors of industrial *schools* because they see us as very needy people. I’m no exception. I think they have every right to feel that way as they’re not beholden to us in any way. They’re not related to us in any way. They have no duty of care towards us in the slightest bit. We shouldn’t expect strangers in the world to understand our predicament, as they’ve never had to undergo similar institutional experiences in their own childhoods. I envy people who never get flashbacks of always looking outside a top rainy Sacred Heart dormitory window and feeling that the world is a cold, friendless unloving place. The world shunned us as children. Now, as adults, we’re shunned because we display all the hallmarks of past neediness and loneliness. It takes extraordinary people to care for survivors of industrial *schools* with extraordinary needs. They’re very few and far between in this world. I miss my uncle so much because he was one person, who, by his mere physical presence was able to empathise and take away the gnawing, anguishing pain, which was a legacy of growing up in Goldenbridge.
I used to belong to an eating house that was going to develop a friendship thing for people such as me who were in industrial *schools* or people who had no family support system that they could relate to emotionally. The committee had in mind to link us up with very special empathetic people who would make friends with us and invite us for tea or even possibly to their houses when they got to know us more, and make us feel welcome and hopefully make up for all the loss we felt in our past lives. Alas – it never materalised. I was so eager to be a part of it, as the world can sometimes be a very cruel place. It has no time for people who are psychologically / emotionally damaged because of past experiences.