My Dad, Gordon Kuhrt, wrote a book for his nine grandchildren which has just been published. Its about his experiences of growing up and how he coped with the challenges of both a disability and being separated from his parents for almost his entire childhood.
The following excerpts in italics are taken from the book:
Why the book was written
‘Why this kind of book? Well I know that your lives will not always be easy. You may face times when you are ill, unhappy or lonely. There will be difficult times. It’s not easy for grown-ups to prepare children for these times, because they can be so varied, so different…so I thought I would write a little book for you with some of my story, and some of the difficulties. I’ll tell you how God has helped me, not usually by taking away the difficulties, but by helping me through them. I hope some of my story and some of my thinking about it, may help you.’
‘My parents were your great-grandparents. They were working in South India where they were missionaries. I was born in 1941 in the city of Madras (now called Chennai). My parents were due for leave to come back to England for a rest but we couldn’t travel back by ship because of the war.
I had two particular things in my childhood which made life specially difficult. The first thing was that I was born with clubbed feet. Instead of the feet pointing forward and straight, they were twisted inwards to face each other, and twisted over sideways so they wouldn’t go flat on the ground. Nowadays, the doctors operate on children with this deformity while they are very young. Ususally they get the feet straightened out before school-days begin. But not when I was small!
When I was fifteen months old, an illness complicated things and made them worse. I got poliomyelitis (polio for short). The story is not clear. But it seems the infection particularly attacked my right leg. It resulted in the loss of calf muscle, and reduced muscle in the thigh. We were a long way from home and family, and from good medical care.
Treatment in England
On January 15th 1945, at last we sailed from Bombay (now called Mumbai). The voyage took five and a half weeks. The war was still going on. It was dangerous but my parents were desperate to get home. My parents knew a young doctor called Paul Brand. He came to our house in East London to look at my feet. This Dr Brand later became very famous for his work with people who had leprosy. He immediately arranged for me to go the famous Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children in London.
I said there were two particular things in my childhood which made life especially difficult. Actually the two things were linked. Imagine the shock and dismay when my parents were told I must stay in England for the continuous medical treatment. You see they had recieved a strong call from God to be missionaries in India. They had studied hard, and had become fluent in the difficult language of Tamil. What should they do? After lots of consultation and prayers (and tears, I expect), a couple called Mr and Mrs Thorpe offered to look after me as guardians or foster parents. So early in 1946, just before my fifth birthday, my parents and brother sailed back to India. I didn’t see them for five years.
I can’t remember being angry or upset. But when Granny and I had children of our own – your dads – Martin, Stephen and Jonathan – I did sometimes feel a bit sad, and wondered about it all. Then when you lovely grandchildren started to arrive it brought it all back again. I wondered what I had missed. Our family is so important to me, and we have such fun together!’
Thinking about the issues the story raises
The rest of Part 1 of the book continues the story – many months in hospitals trying to improve the condition of his feet and how he coped with the issues of disability and the continuing absence of his parents as he grew up and how his journey led him into ministry in the Church of England. Part 2 goes on to explores some of the deeper themes around suffering and pain – Why do people, and children, suffer? Where is God in all this? Does God heal people? How can we live with pain and disability?
How to order the book
If you want to order the book, the best value way is directly through my Dad. Its £7 (including post & packing) – a special deal for R&R readers. Please email Gordon Kuhrt on firstname.lastname@example.org