An excerpt from “Aching To Be”
“While I was in the process of being born, in addition to being born breached, the umbilical cord got wrapped around my neck. The doctor didn’t notice my skin’s lovely shade of blue as fast as he should have. 1973 was a good year for music, so maybe I’d been jamming out to “D’yer Mak’er” from Houses of The Holy, by Led Zeppelin, along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, while in my mother’s belly, hence the whole entanglement situation. Or maybe I got bored, which made me fidgety and restless in those confined quarters. Whatever the reason, the result was a lack of oxygen to parts of my brain that are in charge of things like muscle control, coordination, balance and speech.
Things were dicey for a few days. The staff at the hospital couldn’t decide if I would live one hour or depart the next. A nun even advised my parents to baptize me in case I didn’t make it through my first week. Mom decided that she needed some guidanceâ€”and a miracle. She prayed to God to let me live. After she prayed, she knew what needed to be done. She got dressed, got my dad and she kidnapped me, tubes still stuck into my tiny body, trusting and hoping that divine intervention would show us some sort of blueprint over the following days and years to come.
My fearless and determined young parents brainstormed and decided to try feeding me by means of a teaspoon. Thankfully, for all concerned, particularly me, it worked. Thankfully, my mom has enough patience to arm a platoon of saints; I couldn’t suckle because of my disability, so every feeding involved being fed this way and she spooned baby formula into my greedy little mouth, making sure I didn’t choke, nearly every waking hour for a year. I was rather scrawny when this unique process was first devised, but it worked well enough that I lived to evolve into a fat ball of human cuteness after a while. Mom just did what felt right at the time, without anybody to tell her whether whatever she was doing was right or not. Dad couldn’t just Google “top five baby feeding hacks” and get a few hundred thousand hits on the subject. There was no Internet to find answers to life back in those days. There were no YouTube videos to provide step by step instructions on how to live with a tiny Andrew. It was 1973, it was St. Lucia, and it was just two young people in their tiny apartment, struggling with a sick infant, improvising as best they could.Â
My parents, Carole King and David Fitt, met in Georgetown, Guyana. My father was a young pilot flying small planes in the Guyanese bush, transporting passengers and equipment to remote mining camps. On occasion, my mom would go on these flights with him, flying over mountains and treetops, from air strip to air strip. It’s certainly an interesting way to get to know the person that you might want to end up with forever. They knew many other bush pilots who disappeared during routine flights. After five years of this precarious existence, defying gravity and the perils of the bush, they got married. Dad received an offer to fly for a small airline based in St. Lucia, which is how I ended up being a St. Lucian. A new country was quite an adventure and a challenge for the young couple, but I was even more of an unknown quantity.
There’s only so much preparation that can be done when living with a person with any form of disability. You have to be ready, willing and able to adapt as fast as time permits. Thinking on your feet is crucial. My parents had to learn to master an incredible array of skills and medical knowledge as my days became weeks, then months, years and decades. I would have to develop the same skill for adaptation for handling myself as well, failing at every task multiple times before finding a way to achieve an end result that I could live with.”