"Having lost all of my hair to my recent cancer treatment, besides having been the only one of four brothers (and the eldest at that) to still possess their hair, this photograph reminds me how cruel sometimes, fate can be to those who are so easily prone to follicle challenge.
Today is the birthday of my youngest brother Michael (the one on the left of brothers Patrick, Peter and myself). Please note that while I am the smallest in height of the four brothers, though look the tallest in the photograph, it was only because I faked the shot by not sitting down when it was being taken.
While we were born at different times in my parent's marriage, Michael and I each share one important characteristic; we are both 'survivors.' While, during my life I have survived a number of health scares, my brother Michael managed to survive just as many crises', but under a handicap which I was never subjected to.
You see, his eldest brother had been born and crowned with the mantle of 'specialness,' as the first-born of seven children who'd been born to an Irish mother who was herself the first-born of seven. Michael, on the other hand was merely the run-of-mill 'ordinary' child and youngest son in a family of seven children.
My Irish mother was deeply entrenched in Irish folklore and having also been born the eldest child of seven children, she was steeped in the superstition of centuries. Such a position in an Irish family structure automatically denoted her as being 'special' and invested in her, the power of second sight. Therefore, being the oldest of her seven children, naturally led to my mother holding the firm belief that her first-born of seven children would also be a'special' child who would, after her death, inherit her powers of second sight.
I never once felt such 'specialness' to ever be in doubt throughout my entire childhood; first in my mother's eyes and later in mine. Why, even a peg-selling gypsy confirmed this 'specialness' of mine prior to my birth for the mere transaction of a silver three-penny-piece exchanging palms during my mother's fifth month of pregnancy when she lived in Portlaw, County Waterford.
Every day of my life, I grew up being reminded that I was 'special.' In time I came to instinctively believe the Irish gypsy's prophecy, acted upon it and lived my life accordingly. Whatever I survived in my future life, whatever the odds against me, the reason for my survival was clear; it was because I was 'special.'
It was only during the latter half of of my life that I realised that while I was indeed 'special', so was every other man, woman and child, whatever their pecking order in the family and role in the world happened to be.
I now know that in the 'survival stakes,' my younger brother Michael's skills far exceed mine, for he faced and survived all of his ordeals of life without the belief that he was 'special,' despite being more 'special' a person than I could ever be.
A 'special' Happy Birthday, Michael. I love you. Your big brother Billy." William Forde: June 27th, 2017.