In the front garden of my old grandmother's
house, there was (and still is) a large apple tree. When I was very
young, my eldest brother Tom would climb it (against my
grandfather's wishes) and I have a vivid memory, of one afternoon
one summer, when my grandfather caught him shaking apples off the
branches, which fell and bruised on the lawn below. I was probably
only five at the time, but it sticks with me. He got a thrashing
for it but he didn't care! A few years later, my brother began to
slowly develop severe depression, which ended in a diagnosis of
schizophrenia. For many, many years he became more and more
reclusive, and would avoid talking and socialising; the illness and
effect of medications severely hampered his desire or ability to do
most things. He closed down in many ways and it affected all of the
family in a big way. Recently my grandmother (who always managed to
stay close to my brother and show him great affection) passed away.
In some strange way, this woke up my brother and when my parents
decided to move in to my grandmother's old house, my brother
started to help in the garden. I visited a week ago and my mother
and father asked me to help them pick apples from the very same
tree that my brother had climbed. My brother (who would rarely
venture outside his room and often sat in the dark alone) also came
out to the tree. As I picked apples high up a ladder I dropped them
down to him and he caught them. We spent a whole afternoon doing it
and it was and has been one of the happiest afternoons of my life.
"Don't pick the unripe ones," my brother hollered up at me. It was
a crisp, sunny day and he caught every apple I dropped down, gently
placing them in the basket. Each and every apple I picked and
passed to him, via the force of gravity, felt and feels like a
small miracle bringing us, after so many years, closer together
J Harvey, Ash Green, Hampshire, 1980-2011. For
my grandmother, for planting the tree.
Illustration © Mercedes Leon 2012.