Does that sound odd? What’s the month of showers and daffodils done wrong?
It’s something we, the Textiliste and I, decided a few years back when, in successive years the Lawyer knocked a couple of decades off our life expectancies, both times in April.
These thoughts came seeping back because of Lisa Reiter’s latest Prompt: Bite Size Memoir No.7 Childhood Illness. Lisa says it can be either our own illnesses or our children’s. And that is a wide remit and they are very different things, with a very different emotional response to each.
You see, when I look back at my childhood, it was full of scrapes and escapades that ended, if not always in casualty then in something becoming bent and sometimes broken, though not always me. The incidents, if painful at the time, are anaesthetized by distance; I survived and the pain, such as it was, has faded. Even the two seizures and coma I experienced on one never to be forgotten (save for the coma piece, naturally) day at the start of my O levels in 1973. But what that day did was shed a small glimmer of light on what I would experience 17 years later; there, in a dull sepia-sick coloured hospital room, a doctor warned me that the adrenaline shot they were proposing injecting into the horribly ill Lawyer was very necessary. He explained himself in a way that I understood to scream ‘last throw’ though I was almost certainly being overly dramatic.
The small glimmer of light? My parents’ hollowed out faces as they listened to the doctor explain that he didn’t know why their otherwise healthy 16 year old son had suddenly decided to pass out as comprehensively as a platoon of recruits at Sandhurst. I sat there thinking ‘I’ve revised my arse off and I’m not missing my sodding exams for a stupid stay in hospital and tests’. They sat there (and as I understood those years later but was incapable of understanding before then) thinking ‘don’t die’.
It changes you in so many ways, having children; they are the ultimate in ‘no goings back’ moments in your life. No sale or return with kids. Buy the wrong house, sell it. Take the wrong job, resign. Marry a tit, divorce. Have a child and it’s a life sentence; you die a parent. Illness, of something so fundamental to your nature, is the hardest thing to bear. Its loss, thankfully something I have never suffered, has to be as visceral as anything a human can experience.
So I can joke about my illnesses; I cannot about my children’s. I even find it hard to write. Maybe it’s because it will never be anything other than raw. The raging impotency of not being able to step in, to take their place. Maybe its superstition. However, they are only memories and, in a cathartic way, here goes with 10 I remembers, a mix of both. I will follow with a little light relief in 150 words.
I remember doing something to my neck while Scottish Country dancing and being stretched on a rack while my mother snoozed at my bedside;
I remember watching the Lawyer, at six months, in an oxygen box and thinking ‘don’t go’;
I remember my mother being questioned about the bruises on both sides of my head, caused when the Archaeologist and I fell out of a tree together and my face was sandwiched between his bony buttocks and the path;
I remember the phone call from the Lawyers’ school. ‘There’s nothing to worry about Mr Le Pard…’ When we arrived at casualty he had his head in a neck brace and was pretty concussed. I sat there thinking ‘please walk’;
I remember sitting in some long grass and finding a broken milk bottle with my bottom. The doctor poked into the cut to see if there was any glass there; he seemed more concerned about my father fainting that what he was doing to me;
I remember the Lawyer catching a cold, it getting worse and eventually, late one night he started hallucinating and shivering so much he vibrated. He was 16, it was April and he had pneumonia. When they began to apply the drips and antibiotics I could barely think anything coherent;
I remember the Archaeologist’s experiments with trying to restore to working order an old HMV turntable. He made a paper horn but somehow I trod on it and the pin broke off in my foot. They operated under a local anaesthetic to take it out; no pain but the creepiest sensation of the blood flooding around my ankle.
I remember, one year on from the pneumonia (yep, sodding April), hearing that the Lawyer had glandular fever. I stopped thinking entirely and swore to whatever gods there were to ‘leave my boy a-fucking-lone’;
I remember the doctor telling my mum that she needed to stop me falling out of trees because I had really had enough X-rays for now;
remember understand now what I put my parents through and, belatedly want to say ‘I’m sorry’; I just didn’t have the tools to understand.
The duplicity of mothers
I had the gamut of illnesses – measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough. I developed a pretty unshakeable belief in the power of medicine. My potion of choice was a gripe water called Dinnifords. Apparently it was mostly alcohol which may explain the addiction. My mother – never one to baulk at exploiting childhood innocence for her own ends – had had a run in with my father over an unsavoury incident involving a drunken night at the Rugby club, some inaccurate vomit and a freshly repapered but now ruined bathroom. Inevitably my father let his guard down again. The next morning she had me wake him. While he cradled an IED in his cranium, I offered him a runcible spoon full of Dinnifords to help cure him. He took it, probably because Mum was there, giving him the hairy eyeball. History suggests that it was but a temporary cure.
PS. The Lawyer is now a fit, fine, upstanding member of the community. Well, he’s fit and frankly that’s all I really care about. PPS The Vet never really caused us anxiety through illness; however being her father is, not surprisingly, worry enough.