“When I was twelve I went on holiday to Sydney. One night I was alone in an elevator heading to dinner in our hotel. Two middle-aged ladies got in. One of them looked me up and down, then stared at my face long enough to make me look away.
" ‘Terrible how they let kids so young play football these days, ‘ she said to her friend. ‘Look at the damage it does.’
"The other woman turned and stared at me too. ‘Yes, yes it is,’ she said.
"I stayed silent until the elevator reached the ground floor.
"I should have cringed or felt embarrassed or angry at those two women. I felt those things, at least in part. But I just wanted to laugh. Lady, if only you knew how much I wished I was this ugly because I was allowed to play football!”
Robert Hoge was born with such deformities that his mother, Mary, refused point-blank to see him and thought he should go into an institution as the doctors recommended. His father, Vince, wanted to bring him home but said it was up to Mary, since she’d do most of the work.
So Mary decided it was time to explain to the other 4 kids exactly what was wrong with their new little brother. Everybody cried, but they all said Robert should come home. However, they hadn’t seen him yet, just heard Mary’s and Vince’s descriptions of the horrific tumour in the middle of his face and the half-formed, shortened legs.
So off to hospital they went to see the new baby. Each child took a turn holding him, curious and interested, but they all seemed happy to accept him and wanted to take him home, so the decision was made. And they never looked back.
He has had corrective surgery, has 2 prosthetic legs, and is as bright and personable and public a fellow as any mother could have hoped for. Plenty of struggles growing up, pain, schoolyard taunts (regular schools), great mates, schoolboy pranks (lots), girlfriends, and a very loving, loyal family.
The first in his family to go to uni, he did his honours in English and Journalism but reckoned his real love was the newsroom. He jokes that he has a face for radio, but he loves writing and is quick and capable – perfect for journalism, where there’s little time to meet deadlines.
He became a journalist and writer and has been a political speech writer, so reading his book is an easy pleasure. He’s included some photographs of some special times at various ages, and he seems to have been a joyous, happy boy. He’s also got a photo of his beautiful little girl. His condition appears not to have been genetic, but probably due to the anti-depressants given to Mary before she knew she was pregnant.
I’ve seen him interviewed several times on television, and after a while, I seem to just accept his looks and don’t really think about it. I cannot imagine being one of those so-called ladies in the elevator. Un-bl**dy-believable!
I hope he has a long career in it and we hear more of him and those ‘ladies’ figure out who they are and are suitably mortified.