It Is Beautiful To Be Alive
It Is Beautiful To Be Alive
It is January 2014: January has always been winter for me, but for the last 25 years I have lived in Australia. Our January is high summer, the hottest time of the year. This summer is beautiful and, till now, not too hot.
Small frogs in the pond in front of my kitchen window are making clicking noises, other insects can also be heard through the open windows. I have the celling fans on slow; it is a comforting night.
Bats, which love to eat the ripe seeds from the palm-trees in the yard, can be heard. These fruit bats are big with a wingspan of three quarters of a metre. In the evening you can see dozens flying around before they settle on a tree.
I sit at my kitchen table and start to write the story, a story I like to tell.
Perhaps, I should introduce myself to begin with. I was born 53 years ago in Austria on an Easter Sunday. My mother's name is Maria, my father's Johann and my brother's Hans Peter. I was given the name Katharine. I can only remember a little about my early childhood, just a few things like the flat we were living in, high up on a mountain in a town called Mariazell. In the front yard there were lots of rosebushes - the deer loved to eat the young flowers of these bushes. The flat was small, just a kitchen and a bedroom. When I was three years old we moved to another town, Klosterneuburg. I lived there most of my life until I moved to Australia.
I had a speaking disorder as a small child and only started to speak at the age of four. At age six I started school. I had great difficulty at school, I couldn't understand what the teacher wanted from me. She was an old, fat, mean, ugly person. A few weeks into school my mother came with me to see a school physiologist recommended by the school. A big man asked me to come into his office. He looked terrifying to me and asked me many questions. I had to fill in forms and complete pictures, it was very difficult for me. My class teacher was always very mean to me. I never could do anything right for her. She was always angry at me. When I got my first report card I couldn't read. Written across over the card was - "unable to learn".
In the second class I had a nicer teacher who sometimes tried to help me and was much friendlier. At the beginning of the second school year I heard that the teacher from the previous year had died. I was not sad about it.
In time, I understood a little bit more about school and tried the best I could. My mother took a second job to earn more money to be able to send me to private lessons for riding, writing and speech therapy. I think I learned much more there than at school. In time, I liked to go to school, especially in the years after grade five when a greater variety of subjects were taught. I had lost my speech disorder by then and was keen to learn more about the different subjects.
Many years later I tried to understand what dyslexia is. Dyslexia is when the brain is not able to see the difference between a e i o u. It can't tell them apart. I also can't tell apart some of the consonants: s c; b p; j y; f v; d t; n m. Learning to read and write becomes incredibly difficult. Many children have different levels of dyslexia. Matching the correct letter to the sound, which your brain cannot differentiate, is a big task. Even as an adult, it does not change, telling apart sounds which you can't hear, remains very difficult.
It might sound unusual but I can't remember much about my father when I was a child. Before my mother got divorced when I was 13, we lived together with my father in the same house. My father worked as a head waiter in a big restaurant which belonged to the Church in the town where we lived. He went to work in the morning about 11 o'clock, long after my brother and I had left for school, and he didn't come home before midnight. Often we didn't see him for weeks. I can't remember ever having one m