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This is my mate Ted, a veteran of the British Paratroopers. He's about 85 and one of my favorite people. He's in hospital.

Ted was raised in England in foster care where he was treated badly. As a young teen he bashed a carer who was sexually abusing him, got charged with attempted murder and was locked up in youth detention for years. Somehow he managed to get into the military and became a paratrooper.

He was on service in Cyprus during the ongoing fiasco there and one day, thinking they were under attack, he turned and shot and killed the attacker. It turned out to be a ten year old girl who was welcoming the British soldiers. Killing a child was more than he could handle and he disappeared. He ended up in Africa somewhere as a mercenary for a while, then found himself on the streets of Sydney, drunk and living in a city park.

For many years he was the face of drunken homelessness in Sydney newspapers. If they wanted a photo of somebody at rock bottom they knew where to find Ted. But they did not know his story.

One night the Salvation Army picked him up in the park, unconscious, and took him to hospital. He was totally blind from the years of alcohol, as well as having no ability to walk. Somehow he survived. After three months of blindness his vision started to return - notice he's not even wearing glasses in the photo. He was in rehab learning to walk again for months. And he gave up the booze.

He got involved with AA and at some time moved to Newcastle, the city where I've lived for the last ten years. I met him soon after I arrived. I had clients who I'd take to Ted's AA meeting as I knew his perception of people was very sharp and he could sort out who was serious about recovery very quickly.

Ted finished up with running AA meetings two or three years ago as his health started to fail with diabetes and they started amputating his toes. He's now on a walking frame but still has falls out in the street as he gets impatient with having to use the walker. And then he ends up in hospital for a few days to a few weeks as they try to get his blood sugar under control.

He's in hospital at the moment and this pic is from yesterday. I go to see him and take him some decent coffee. He's a cantankerous old codger for the most part but seems to be always surrounded by pretty nurses. He's the most surprising chic magnet I know. :)

A few years ago he resolved his inner conflict about killing the little girl. It was many many years before he would even talk about it, but when he shared his story with a few of his close friends he started to be able to let go of the pain and guilt he carried.

I don't know if any of you have read the book 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven', but it's a story of a Vietnam vet that mirrors Ted's experience. I read the book when it came out, coincidentally when Ted was dealing with his pain. I gave it to him to read. It was if it was written just for him and helped his own journey.

This has been a long post so thanks for getting this far. People return from warfare with all kinds of trauma but we rarely get to hear their stories. It's easy for people like Ted to get forgotten. He has no family - he once had a wife and daughter but has had no contact since leaving for Cyprus - and is living on the other side of the world from his home.

We sometimes talk about the manner of his death. He says he doesn't want to end up 'in one of those homes'. I tell him I reckon that one day his heart will say, 'OK, I've had enough and I'm going no further' and he'll drop dead in the street. Somehow he's made it to 85, every year is a blessing.

Ted shaving.jpg
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