Karate Brother

When we were little I would pretty much do anything my cute little loveable brother asked. You’d think the danger signal would be out, and I the older sibling, would have just said ‘no’. After all neither of us actually attended karate classes. I think we’d just seen it on the television, but we were young, had active imaginations and were often role playing.

We laid out a combat zone, by pulling back all the chairs and laying out mattresses. At first it was mostly fake wizzing noises and kicks that did not land. We imagined we were in our own martial arts movies. I willingly took part in my brother’s game. But then suddenly ‘wallop’ to my right side, a kick really landed.

I fell over and banged my ear on something which cut it badly. So badly, that in the next minute the blood was gushing out and I was running to find a towel so as not to damage mum’s freshly cleaned carpet. I wrapped it around my ear and then ran down the hallway crying with all the drama of a victim in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Mum was yelling, ‘what’s all the fuss, what have you kids been doing this time’, and my brother high tailed it out of there, somewhere up our hilly back yard with a deadly rooster called Solomon who commanded a harem of chickens, plenty of corn and peaches, and most of all safety from Mum’s impending punishment.

At first Mum was mad at me and hollered even more when she saw the state of the lounge, not realising I was in pain, then she noticed the red seeping out of the towel.

Mum pulled the towel off my ear, announcing, ‘I think it’s off to the hospital for stitches for you.’

I can’t remember where my hiding brother was when the stitches were going in. Looking back it was probably an accident but I didn’t talk to him ages after that and it seemed no time at all before my other younger baby brothers got bigger and became his partners in mayhem.

We never recovered that early closeness, although he did sing a hilarious comedic tribute at my wedding.  He was a talented boy, at so many things, but he was gone before he ever really settled down.

Still, I like to think this incident is why I became so interested in art, seeing as I had a damaged ear experience like Van Gough.

 

First Published 19 Jul 2013, ABC Open 500 Words

From Wheelchair to Walking: The Story of Paul

At first the medical fraternity thought my brother, Paul’s, accident meant he was going to be a vegetable and if he was lucky enough to leave his bed he would be stuck in a wheelchair for life. But my Mum had other plans.

She played his favourite music, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’  to him during his coma.  She spoke continuously to him and encouraged us to do so.

She brought him home and embarked on all sorts of therapies, including Reflexology  – a foot massage based therapy. After many months, against the odds, he was mobile in a wheel chair, and then after many more months he was able to walk, but with a slight loping rhythm.

Does he remember what he was once like? I think the question is avoided so he doesn’t grieve for it.

Before his accident Paul Junior (named after my Dad and often called Peejay) was doing brilliantly at school, a good soccer player, a tap dancer, and planned to win a scholarship to go to a private school.  He was a young man with the only obstacle being when rather than if.

He was by far my favourite brother (sorry other brothers), because he was gentle, chatty and enjoyed being the perfect little brother. But as I think back, he was accident prone even from a young age and had a few scrapes before ending up in hospital big time.

Everything changed when my brother chose not to wear a helmet and cycle out of a steep driveway to come home.  

He was knocked off his bike by a car and hit the pavement at full pelt, head first. Sounds like one of those terrible cautionary ads you see in television now, but this was a long time before wearing helmets was heavily promoted. Every second kid chose not to wear them.

I have vivid memories of my other two younger brothers transporting Paul around in his wheel chair as if speed car racing in the city mall, much to the dismay of my mother. I thought at the time it was cool that they were treating him like they always did, head injury or not. He must’ve missed going off to play cricket with them.

It wasn’t easy to ask Paul how he felt about things as it took a while for his speech to return, besides everyone was focusing on physical recovery as he was paralysed down one side. We were all employed by Mum to support his therapy, but she did most of it and he did the hardest yakka of all.

When Paul did recover his speech his sentences were formed so slowly it seemed like if you just taped them, then sped them up it would be easier to understand what he was on about.

‘Do you speak PeeJay?’ My irreverent boyfriend, now husband, asked when he first met him. He jokes with everyone and wasn’t going to let an obviously brain injured individual cramp his normal personality. Paul laughed. He has loved David ever since.

Paul has come a long way in his recovery, but like it or not, we’ ve all had to accept he will never have the same fluent personality or movement.

The thing I love most about Paul is the way he laughs at life. His mind is quicker than people think, so he recognises when someone is patronising him; his slow motion mimicry of them annoying him is hilarious.

I think he has more he could say but it can take so long for us to understand so he just gives up and chuckles. We try to overcome our limitations to reach out to him the best we can.

My Mum said when she read the first draft of this:

I remind him everyday how far he has come. And prepare him for a future I won’t be there, so he can be as independent as possible.”

She has done so much for my brother to assist him to overcome the challenges life has presented. She always seems to wish she could do more.

Paul makes a lot of people happy through the joyful way he lives his life, and is part of a large caring and extended family.

He and my mum are more inspirational than they will ever really know.  Mum said these days Paul listens to a lot of music and loves making costumes and threading beads for the culture performance group she facilitates.

The last word of this family journey belongs to Paul:

I am happy with my life. I’d like to move forwards and get better and better. Ever forwards, forwards. I like playing  drums  and dancing in the dance group practices with my Mum’s culture group.

If you liked this story you might enjoy my blog  Pearlz Dreaming 

Further links of interest are:

Headway Tasmania

Music Therapy for Brain Injury

Originally posted in ABC Opens, 500 Words: Like it or Not, 11th January 2013

I am transporting my abc open contributions to this blog, the links to ABC Open will no longer exist after June 20th 2019.

 

Comments on the ABC Open Blog

  • June Perkins

    Thanks for reading, I think my brother is inspiring me with some picture book ideas. He’s an awesome person.

  • Marylou

    Thanks June. Sound like an amazing family you have

  • June

    Thanks for sharing the story of your nephew.

  • kate campbell-lloyd

    June comments that the thing I love most about Paul is the way he laughs at life. His mind is quicker than people think, so he recognises when someone is patronising him; his slow motion mimicry of them annoying him is hilarious. I have a nephew Brendon, who is cerebral palsy from birth and now 22. He too gets with his dad Michael (who is my hero, like yours is your mother) and they put on a spaso show when the room is full of people who don’t quite know what to say! I worked in the WA Shenton Park rehab for accidents…I know how hard you have worked to get where you are….& you have a beautiful family..I am a friend of your sister…and she helped me when I needed it most and got me writing….keep up the dancing & music….it makes you and Brendon’s day rich and beautiful…I will send my brother this link….big hug from Kate

  • Judi Morison

    Peejay’s story is inspirational, June. He’s such a strong character. But your story says a lot about your mother and your whole family too, and shows the power of being positive. I share Peejay’s love of dancing and drumming too – they’re good for body and soul. Best wishes to Peejay!

  • Koruone Lavu

    PJ! Such a lovely person and full of surprises, despite what you’ve gone through you always put on that contagious smile of yours and welcomed and greeted whoever that came to your house. Mike and I are so grateful to have met you. And to aunty anna God bless your beautiful heart, an incredible woman who never ceases to amaze me, with her ever vibrant attitude to life. Lotsa luv to you PJ, aunty anna and uncle Paul Snr and may god be with you always through out this journey xxx

  • Paul Gerard (senior)

    Thanks to my dear daughter for posting this beautiful story about her brother, and to everyone who commented. Please wear a suitable helmet whenever you get on a bike (or motor bike). Bad brain damage is about the worst thing – I never cease to be amazed how well Paul junior copes. Not so easy for the rest of us, alas.

  • Paul Bray

    Life certainly is a journey into the unknown. It’s fantastic to hear about how supportive and positive your family have been throughout. Thanks for sharing this story June – great photo too!

  • June

    Thanks Gary, Daryll, it is an honour and a challenge to try and do the inspiring family members I know justice in writing and it’s taken a long time to be able to write this story and share it. Thanks Susie and Vera it is inspiring to hear from other contributors to 500 words, and all the best for your writing. And to everyone else I am sure Peejay is going to love your comments and our family are touched by (in some cases) your memories and love for our family.

  • Gary Orr

    Thanks for sharing Peejay’s story. June, your writing’s grab my senses and make me feel the gift of life all the way to my core.

  • Daryll Bellingham

    Inspiring story. Your Mum showed such love and clarity, courage and determination. I love Paul’s attitude ‘moving forward and getting better’. Good writing June. Nice balance of detail and feeling.

  • Howard Perkins

    Peejay! Peejay! You are the greatest just as you are but nothing wrong with striving to be better. What a great mum and dad you have, always there for you. I have always admired your amazing ability to do just about anything and no one can bring joy to my heart as much as you can. You are a born comedian and the best example to others such as myself who think things are tough at times. Just to think of you is uplifting. You are the essence of courage. I love you man and always will. Miss you and I am saving for a trip to visit, so far saved $11 I will get there eventually. Lots of love Howard

  • June Perkins

    Paul and Mum are reading all the beautiful comments and said they will reply here soon.

  • katelyn

    All the best to you, Paul and your family 🙂

  • Gail Kavanagh

    thank you for sharing this story, June. What a wonderful smile!

  • Susie Surtees

    So much love and courage in the people you write about. WHAT a journey you write about so beautifully and with such tenderness June. Paul’s lucky to have you as his sister.

  • Nigel Davidson

    Hi PJ and June. Great that someone has taken the time to write about PJ’s remarkable journey of recovery. I have great memories of times in Tassie with you both, and David, which I treasure. I was interested to hear about the role of music (Michael Jackson’s thriller) in PJ’s story – and now dance and drums. I think music and movement are essentials in life, regardless of whether we are recovering from an accident or enjoy so-called “good health” (are we really that healthy?). I am currently based in Tanzania and know how important music and dance are in traditional cultures – the Masai here are just one example. I think we can all learn something from such examples. Lots of love, Nigel.

  • Owen Allen

    Go Paul!

  • Alan Perkins

    Peejay certainly has a great sense of humor and can make fun of himself. Always good to see him.

  • Sue

    Thanks for beautiful story June. Your brother sounds like a real inspiration and his smile is one of pure joy.

  • Noel Broomhall

    One of the most wonderful memories was at a Baha’i Feast, when we were sharing prayers and readings, going around the room. PJ didn’t have a prayer book or a reading, but he said the prayer “O God guide me….” from memory, though haltingly, he completed it – everyone was amazed and thrilled.

  • Vera Rayson

    Paul, you have an infectious smile that I can’t help but smile too. You must be a wonderful person to be with. Keep on going forward you are an inspiration Paul. Thank you June for sharing Paul’s story.

  • Colleen Hinkle

    What a remarkable story! You capture your brother’s spirit that shines through before and after his injury and your family’s courage in supporting his recovery. Thank you for writing about this!

  • Barbara

    That’s it, Paul, keep going forward one day at a time. Life is what you make it. I’ll bet you play a mean set of drums! Blessings to you and your wonderful family!

  • Tobi-lea

    I did not know Paul before his accident but I can clearly imagine it. It’s easy when he still has such a vibrant helpful fun loving personality. He is always eager to help me in the kitchen and whenever I am unsure of a song title or who the artist was he is always lightning fast in his response. He has never been unable to name any song or artist that I have been puzzled over and he has no trouble speaking when it comes to singing or music. He has great music taste and I’ve often see him put people who doubt him in their places.

  • Melissa Robertson

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. PeeJay sounds like an amazing brother to have.

  • Anita Marie

    Hey Paul! First of all I love it that you are involved in music! My youngest son and two of my cousins are drummers too- wish I had that talent! I’d tell you to keep going forward but you already are. So, all I can add is keep having fun while you’re at it. Anita Marie

  • Tish Twyford

    I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peejay. His joy and exuberance are infectious. He really does have a great sense of humour. Thank you, June for your lovely story about Paul and his journey. What a wonderful family you have too. Peejay, keep smiling and never lose that cheeky sense of humour.

  • Pam

    Thank you, June, for sharing PeeJay’s story. It is an inspirational one. All families seem to be thrown a difficult challenge at some stage. Your family faced the aftermath of Paul’s terrible accident with courage, patience and trust in a mother’s loving intuition. No pretentiousness, no solemnity, no self-pity on anyone’s behalf. I like to picture PeeJay dancing and playing drums – ever onwards with joy and good humour. Good luck, Paul!

  • Lynette Harris

    The story of Paul is very moving and inspiring. It is amazing what our minds can do if we concentrate on healing our bodies along with a mother and family who truly believes in, and are there to help us. Thanks for sharing Paul`s story.

  • Jane Curtis

    What a journey Paul has travelled in his life. Paul’s photo and your writing give such a vivid sense of his joy and spirit and sense of humour. Thanks June, I really enjoyed reading about Paul and your family. All the best with your drums and dancing Paul!

     

My Story Begins

I was trawling back through early versions of my memoir the last two days and reoorganising it. It could be written sometime soon and it feels good to begin to see its structure as well, but back to the other novel and the memoir can sit and stew, although I am making notes of memories I’d like to add to it when I feel I can’t work on the novel. It could be three books, or one book with three to four sections.

“My story begins with the love story of my parents to be, in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s. Dad when he reads my first telling of their story in a short piece called ‘Lost in the Bush’ says, ‘You make it sound so much like a movie.’ And it’s true: it has that feeling about it, because it’s an epic story about the coming together of two rebellious and open minded young people from different cultures.

My parents met when they were young. She was eighteen and training to be a nurse, while he was a patrol officer in his early twenties, and part of the colonial administration of Papua New Guinea by Australia.

My mother, Anna Elizabeth Ako, began her life living in Maipa Village Papua New Guinea, tending to the pigs, which were destined to be killed for feasts. She had a younger brother and sisters and older brother and sister, and another two sisters who died before she was born. Later she went away to a mission boarding school and was educated by Catholic nuns with the occasional visit from Priests.

In her teens she would examine many churches to see whether Catholicism truly was the one for her and even later she would look at world religions. Her father Malolo was the local sorcerer, who gave love spells, herbal remedies, and sometimes curses. He didn’t think much of churches, as they looked down on his carving, and living a traditional life. Yet, still this traditional man didn’t object to his daughter being trained as a nurse, as long as she still learnt traditional dances and understood her role as a woman to care for her family and extended family. Her mother was Paisa, destined to be the semi exiled second wife of the sorcerer.

Paisa would later ask her daughter to please bring her to Australia to live. I was told I would be sharing a room with her. My mother planned this for years but sadly it never happened.”

(c) June Perkins, Extract from Memoir in Progress.

Lest We Forget

My mother tells me my grandfather was one of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

That’s all I know of the story so far, apart from what is in the Australian War Memorial Records, and written by the army or historians.

There is so much history that could have been written but might forever be lost.

So we search for fragments in the often faded memories of those relatives who spoke to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Must we then imagine their stories from these spoken fragments, public records, and photographs, where so many faces seem to be from the village of my grandfather.

Will some historians who want written records, and identify verification from the photographs, discount our hand-me-down fragments and pieced together tales?

I am touched when a friend of mine says her grandfather was an Australian on that trails.

Maybe our grandfathers met each other.

We will never now.

Malolo was a Fuzzy Wuzzy angel.

He was my bubu (grandfather)

Lest we Forget.

 

For more information

https://www.awm.gov.au (photographs in the public domain)

https://www.army.gov.au/our-history/history-in-focus/fuzzy-wuzzy-angels

http://www.kokodaspirit.com.au/the-fuzzy-wuzzy-angels/

http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/four-peoples-at-war/new-guineans-at-kokoda.php

http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/asfaras/angels.html

 

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels

 

Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track

For they haven’t any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse

Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording
that an artist’s yet to paint

Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track

May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

By Bert Beros

Can be found at http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/asfaras/angels.html

Ruha’s Birthday

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Marika, June, Temily and Ruha

I haven’t written in this blog for a while, but I really wanted to remember Ruha’s Surprise party.

Her sister, Minaira secretly invited several of Ruha’s friends to gather to surprise her.  Our instructions were, ‘dress in the style of Ruha, bring Sushi and Yoghurt, and arrive at 6.45.’

What a happy but noisy waiting bunch, not sure if Ruha heard the loud shushes…. from up the street.

There were a couple of false arrivals, that caused lots of giggles.

Minaira, was infectious in her excitement that she was making a big surprise for her sister.

And finally Ruha arrived!

Surprise.

Lots of hugs and laughter.

Children running around with balloons.

Sushi and frozen yoghurt treats.

Followed by dancing, guitar and general happiness.

Happy birthday Ruha and thanks so much for Minaira for including us in the shenanigans.

It was so funny how the group photograph came together.  It began with six and Ruha just kept calling more and more people into the photograph.

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Honouring Stories

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Fragments of Broken Hearts – June Perkins – featured on nineteen months

It was a day for honouring and remembering people born in villages, with open houses, who have to make and grow everything they have – those whose islands may be going under, and they may have to mass migrate.

I had an enlightening yarn up with a Papua New Guinean Australian lady I have met at the place where I tutor. There’s a common room where staff and students often mingle including the more transient sessional academics, who tutor.

Today we talked about culture, opportunities for the young in the Pacific, our travels, growing up Papua New Guinean in Australian, and I always feel like I understand something more after our yarns. On another note we discussed pigs, colonisation, and chickens.  I won’t go into our private yarn up too much, but plenty of deep thinking conversation not to mention laughter.  Reminds me of visits and yarns with my dear friend Lima up in Tully

My mum was the caretaker of the pigs, and eventually they would end up at feast.  Pigs are there, weddings and funerals, and there was one at my wedding in Hobart.  That’s one way to be PNG in Australia, have the pig at the important events.

When I arrived home my mum emailed me that an older brother had passed away. She was, understandably pretty sad about it, and rarely travels to Papua New Guinea which makes that loss even harder (no closure from the funeral), although she often sends parcels and does major projects to give back to the community she grew up in.

This week has been wonderful for discovering a whole stack of Pasifika writers.  I did a shout out on my twitter and Lani Wendt Young, who I met briefly at her book launch sent me a shout out back.  Loving visiting their blogs and discovering more about the newer Pasifika writers.  Hope I can join their wonderful company!

When the holidays arrive and tutoring is finished for the year, will be great to explore their texts, write more of my stories, and hoping and dreaming that Magic Fish Dreaming comes true.  Not long to kickstarter lift off, just a few more jobs and away we go.

(On another note looking forward to Mel Irvine being back in Australia soon!)

(c) June Perkins

Three Generations and a 15th Birthday

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My Mum, Me and Daughter – Three Generations

We had a special lunch for my daughter’s fifteenth. My mother and brother were able to make the journey from Tasmania for Brisbane for it.

When Baha’i children turn fifteen, this is the age at which they are able to decide to independently reaffirm their faith.  They must make the decision for themselves without any pressure from family or friends as to whether their commitment will be made.

To celebrate this occasion we went to Ahmet’s at South Bank

Our family gathered together with bubu, Uncle and two of our dear close family friends. They were great company and chatted with us all, and bought some arty gifts for dear daughter.  Daughter loved that we were all honouring her special day and was incredibly chatty and sparky.

South Bank, Brisbane has a lot of cool eating places but Ahmet’s was particularly recommended by a dear writing friend for its atmosphere as well as brilliant menu.

It had tremendous service.  The wait staff were warm, friendly and diligent.  We ate beautiful turkish pizza, spinach and ricotta pastry, egg plant salad, an assortment of dips, turkish bread, and calamari.

Dear Daughter loved the music on the radio and the the amazing lights.  She took quite a few photographs of the lights.

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Lights – by Dear Daughter

A big thank you to everyone who was there with us. Thanks to Temily for taking this photograph of some of the group that went.

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I remember my 15th birthday years ago. It was a massive joint party of three youth. Baha’is from all over Tasmania attended and our parents hired a hall and one of them, Ed, decorated our cakes as per our request. I had a pegasus on mine. Many of my friends from school attended. It was a special day and I was keen to reaffirm and remain a Baha’i as I am today.

It was a big event, but I think our dear daughter was equally happy with our low key and warm and friendly event. It was special that some of the extended family were able to come and spend it with us.


(c) June Perkins

 

Happy Birthday Youngest

A very happy birthday to youngest son, who is enjoying an afternoon doing what he loves most, playing cricket for his club. Energetic, enthusiastic, movie buff, mathematics wizz, writing with heart and imagination – with a growing crew of close mates. Now your parents are officially parents to three teenagers. What a delightful young man you are and what beautiful friends you are making. Like your older brother, born during Ayyam-i- ha Love Mum

Dad tells me there are 343 grade 7s in the school this year, I take a moment to process this and realise there are more people in the school I go to than the town that I used to live in. I realise how much things have changed in an instant. I begin to think of Tully.

Such a humble micro settlement. The twin towers of Tully was a sugar mill. My nose in distress, sniffing in the terrible air of the mill in cane season. An endless sea of green mountainous landscape. The unstoppable golf ball sized aqua drops have a limitless quantity. They constantly fall. The hill that I called home, in a mountain off in the distance, as steep as the Angel Falls. A green house, light green bricks. A simple little home.

All the kids shared a room. A beautiful neighbourhood, so much forest. The street lit up with Christmas. A display for all eyes to see. A tiny street in a mini figure town, with a display of glowing, blinding, luminous light.

The snakes slither through schools and shops, the birds chirp on the roof tops, the sun barely peeps through the always watching clouds, azure is a discolouration of the sky.

Grey is misery, but the beauty of the luscious green landscape makes me ignore it. The village is a family, everyone knows each other, if one of this tight group of people had a problem with another, I can guarantee they’ll see that person again, they’ll have to deal with it. It also means, a loaf of bread comes with a conversation, dad buys the groceries and shopkeepers talk, for hours and hours. They talk like they are family, because the town is a large family. I grow up with school kids like siblings, I always see them. Only one major place of shopping, it is the heart of the town, lives and breathes.

Dad knows most of the shopkeepers, they’re all high school aged, he educates at the centre of socialising and learning. My brother can’t go past the Guitar shop without walking in, Butler Street is the café relax time for off work dwellers during the day. The traffic report at peak hour will have two traffics, one turning towards the library, and the other towards the Tennis court.

Everyone is a sports fan of some sort or the mother of a sports fan. Cricket here, rugby there and our family is an odd AFL fan. I was considered a rather strange kid, liked AFL, cricket, maths, reading and even cards. No-one I knew liked even 2 of these things.

Storm season is always frightening, a system circling around the tiny houses, shredding them bit by bit, the wind slapped against the roof tops, lightning shattered the sky and clouds opened and shed a thousand tears against the homes of many beings. Lightning, wind, rain, things were so simple.

Cinemas were hard to find, the closest one was a million miles away, so I adopted the small screen. But going to the movies was like hearing you were pregnant. No matter how bad the movie was, I’d love the experience. It never ceased to amaze.

Now things are different, I’m nearly a teen, I live in a city of a million souls and I have handled the change much better than I expected. It was a daunting experience, getting told I was going to a school bigger than the town I used to live in. I didn’t know how I’d handle it.

Now I realise I can cope with change, my family pet bird coped with it, my family coped with it and helped me adapt to the change. And it all ended well. Friends from my new school welcomed me as their own, I now live in Brisbane.

I now know I can adapt to change, and I also know I can teach and help my children through change and the process of growing up. I think of old homes, schools and friends a lot, but the colossal town I live in, I have now grown to know it as home.

Youngest son Perkins