TALES OF MY FATHER
My Father ……. Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None ……. an enigma
TALE FOUR: HOW TO MAKE A SICK KID LAUGH
My father, although not always able or willing to take control of a difficult situation, was good when I was ill as a child. Sadly for me my childhood years were plagued with my suffering from multiple ear infections.
Such events were not uncommon in those days. Treatment at that time was not with a sweet-flavoured liquid containing an antibiotic, but required its intra-muscular injection with the most common site for assault being the bottom! Such treatment was not without great pain! If infections occurred on a regular basis, the doctor would next advise the surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids, which required a hospital stay and the use of a general anesthetic. In order to receive such treatment one had to be well and not suffering from any kind of infection. It seemed that whenever I went for surgical evaluation, it was discovered that I had a low-grade fever and so was dismissed as a candidate for such treatment and sent home whereupon I invariably developed yet another ear infection. My parents suffered this vicious circle with me for a number of years.
On one occasion while enjoying a day-trip to the seaside and sitting on the upper deck of a roofless bus, I remember, as we made our way along the promenade, being suddenly struck with severe pain in my left ear. By the time I arrived home, I was noted to be suffering from an extremely painful bout of Otitis Media, as the infection of the middle-ear is called. My parents treated me as previously instructed by our doctor and was planning to take me to his clinic the next morning. Apparently during the night, my condition worsened and my parents became most distressed. Their distress continued to such a point that they rushed me to the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital in Hackney Road, a place I knew well from visits to receive injections into the bottom!
As it happens, it was most fortunate for me that my parents rushed me to the hospital since it was found that the infection had spread and was following branches of the Cranial Nerve VII and the Stylomastoid Artery, as they passed through the Stylomastoid Foramen and making it way up into the Cranial Cavity where the brain sits. This Foramen or canal passes between the Styloid and Mastoid Processes of the Temporal Bone of the skull. Such an infection was and still is considered serious since its repercussions can be dramatic for the malade.
Very quickly a decision was made, which found me being rushed into an empty Theatre, as Operating Rooms were once called. Upon arrival under the very bright and hot lights, I was speedily prepared for what was to be emergency surgery. Here in the centre of the Theatre, I was poked and prodded and made ready for the grand entrance of the hero of the plot, a very tired looking surgeon who most likely had been summoned from his Call Room where was probably enjoying a well-deserved snooze. I remember a nurse holding my upper body in a vice-like grip as a facemask was forced over my nose and mouth and then nothing more until I awoke in one of the Children’s Ward on the first floor that looked out over Hackney Road.
I later learned that the infection had been drained. Had this not been done at that time, I might not be in a state to relate this tale.
But I digress! Whenever I was struck down with a cold or a simple ear infection, once the affliction was verified by my mother, I was quickly sent to bed or else was allowed to lie on the couch with suitable covers over me and several pillows under my head and was royally taken care of. However, on those occasions when I was not ill, but wanted to stay at home and not go to school, my mother was never fooled. Whenever I tried to look pitiful and said that I thought I might be ill, my pretense was always dismissed by her and I was urged, in the strongest terms, to get to school and work it off! At such times she assumed the demeanor of a monitor or even a drill sergeant! However, by contrast, my father was a push over! He could be wrapped around my little finger. All I had to do was to complain to him that I had a slight sniffle and he would tell me that I had better stay home! When my mother found out that he had allowed me to school, she was furious, but it was too late for it was too late for her to insist I get up and work it off! As a result, whenever I was ill, I only wanted my father to attend to my needs. Although my mother had concern – perhaps more concern – she was relegated to the status of a maid and was there to bring suitable delicacies to my besides which were enjoyed by my father and me as he entertained me.
This brings me to one of my father’s great qualities: he was able to relate wondrous tales that would transport both my mother and father far away into the land he described and often would send us into fits of laughter. I smile when I think of his tales now. Although I can see that they were neither sophisticated nor particularly clever, their charm lay in the telling and, to a sick child, my father’s tales proved to be wonderful and memorable, and just what the doctor ordered! One of his best loved tales involved his hiring of a bicycle.
My father admitted freely that he did not like school. He said that he was unable to learn and left without being able to read well. He said that he later taught himself to read. I remember him reading both books and newspapers so evidently taught himself well. He said that he would sit in class and when asked to answer a question, oftentimes he had no recollection of what the teacher had been speaking about. Years later, I came to the conclusion that he suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Since 1987, the disorder has been known officially as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Today, this disorder is readily, and perhaps, overly diagnosed in young children who appear to be inattentive and/or disruptive in school.
My father used to disappear from school quite often. He said that he would simply walk the gate and take off for a day walking wherever he chose. He followed tram routes often simply to see where they went! He would go to the park and play football with like-minded children and occasionally find a tradesman that needed errands ran. With his earnings he liked to hire a bicycle, which he would ride to further points that interested him.
His hiring of a bicycle leads me to a tale he would tell my mother and me whenever I was ill with an ear infection, which was quite often during my childhood.