‘We never stop wor­ry­ing about our chil­dren, whether they’re 15 or 50’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Real Lives -

Best known as the cre­ator of In­spec­tor Re­bus, crime nov­el­ist Ian Rankin talks about the chal­lenge of sup­port­ing two sons with very dif­fer­ent needs.

Iremember the day my wife, Mi­randa, told me she was preg­nant. We were liv­ing in ru­ral France at the time, ex­ist­ing on my mea­gre earn­ings as a nov­el­ist. My ap­ti­tude for French was ques­tion­able, so vis­its to the an­te­na­tal clinic meant Mi­randa had to be the in­ter­preter. But I un­der­stood un garçon all right, and our son Jack duly ar­rived.

A year and a half later, our sec­ond son, Kit, was born. Kit, we soon learnt, had spe­cial needs, so we moved back to Scot­land. As the boys grew up, I was writ­ing nov­els, play­ing God, and con­trol­ling my char­ac­ters’ des­tinies. But, in the real world, it was a strug­gle as we be­gan jump­ing through the var­i­ous hoops to assess the ther­a­pies and treat­ments Kit needed.

As it be­came ap­par­ent that Jack and Kit were never go­ing to be able to have ad­ven­tures to­gether, I maybe over­com­pen­sated, act­ing less like a fa­ther to Jack and more like a pal, while still fo­cus­ing on Kit’s needs. When your child grows out of a buggy and into a wheel­chair, you be­come sen­si­tive to prob­lems of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and trans­port. Hol­i­days and trips had to be planned with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion.

I thought I should in­volve Jack in sports. My fa­ther had taken me to foot­ball games reg­u­larly, but Jack wasn’t keen. But we did find a com­mon in­ter­est in mu­sic. Kit en­joyed lis­ten­ing, too – to live con­certs as well as record­ings. Jack was good at the pi­ano and gui­tar, which thrilled me, as I’d al­ways lacked that gift.

Although the two broth­ers couldn’t re­ally play to­gether or share ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge, they stayed close. Jack brought friends home and they all ac­cepted Kit for the kid he was – friendly, gre­gar­i­ous and al­ways ready with a bear-hug.

I’ve al­ways chan­nelled prob­lems, ques­tions and (yes) fears into my char­ac­ters. When I found out that Kit would most likely not walk, I wrote Re­bus’ daugh­ter into a car crash that put her in a wheel­chair. That was cathar­tic, though I felt bad about it af­ter­wards and al­lowed her to re­cover. Re­bus him­self has not been the best of fathers – too wrapped up in his work to fo­cus on family. I hope he’s not too close to his cre­ator. But per­haps all par­ents have these wor­ries.

We’ll never stop learn­ing or wor­ry­ing about our chil­dren, whether they’re 15 or 50. Both my sons are now adults and have left home – Jack is in a flat on his own, while Kit lives in a res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity nearby.

I’m not as young as I once was, and push­ing the wheel­chair up any gra­di­ent has now be­come more of a chore. But Jack seems ea­ger to do his fair share and more, strid­ing ahead. Maybe that’s what all our kids end up do­ing – and we watch them with unal­loyed pride as they dis­ap­pear into the fu­ture.

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