We’re banning April

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.

05 BOX-006

Don’t jump!

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;

I 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.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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14 Responses to We’re banning April

  1. Lisa Reiter says:

    Packed with such rich material, I’ll have to ask you to choose which I include in this week’s round-up! I do so love the humour and the irony of your young self offering your father a spoonful of Dinnifords – In our house, it’s the ‘thinking positive’ and ‘looking for the upside’ that my only throws back at me if I get to ruminating over a problem.
    We’ve been spared the close shave of disease requiring something as dramatic as an adrenaline shot – Heavens – I’m not sure I dare imagine how awful that must have been. We’ve had one dramatic blue-light run to casualty after an unexplained seizure, perhaps similar to your own (fortunately no coma) The paediatrician explained they think these one-offs in adolescents are a bit like growing pains – some neurons somewhere grew a bit too fast, temporarily short-circuit – that sort of thing. A few dramatic accidents but I’ll come to that with a later prompt! Thank you, Lisa x


    • TanGental says:

      Choose? Hmm. Actually it should be the flash as that is within the limit whereas the ten times are well outside. And you’ve mined a rick vein this week


  2. Annecdotist says:

    A tough one, Geoff, but you’ve pulled it off beautifully. can see why you’d like to erase April from your memory bank


  3. Gordon Le Pard says:

    The Archaeologist responds.
    As the direct and indirect cause of some of the problems mentioned above, I feel it is only right for me to comment and supply more evidence for the prosecution.
    First one incident I was completely innocent of, but I believe the author probably bore some responsibility. He was an unwilling volunteer for the school maypole dancing team. One day it was raining outside and the teacher unwisely decided to bring the practice indoors. The maypole was set up in the school hall, with a wooden floor and , when in full flight with his ribbon, the author went flying. He may have had to spend time in a neck brace and hours in traction (on a recycled rack) but he didn’t have to dance in public – that’s a result.
    The incidence with mum is quite true, she volunteered to read a story to him whist he was in traction, he was strapped in, his head immobile. Mum settled down in the warm room, and promptly fell asleep. The author couldn’t speak as his jaw was immobile, as mum was with him the nurse didn’t bother to look in for the whole hour.

    Yes he did step on the horn I had made to try and get the old gramophone to work, it was really difficult to get another needle the right size, and I was quite cross our parents didn’t bring it back from the hospital.

    I suppose I was responsible when we fell out of a tree. We had a rope ladder in an oak tree, it was attached to a thick branch, but we wanted it to be free hanging. So I moved it to another branch, unfortunately it was a little rotten. So when we were both hanging on it, the branch broke. I happened to be on top so the author’s head got a little squashed.

    But then there are the things I did that didn’t damage the author. Like setting the bedroom table on fire or building an early type of landmine – the crater was quite impressive. I must admit I think we both got off lightly from our childhood.


  4. Charli Mills says:

    Geoff, the way you weave your own childhood illnesses with that of your son’s is a beautiful tribute to acknowledging what your parents must have felt. Out west, we call things like Dinnifords, “snake oil.” It was often nothing but alcohol but acceptable as it was medicinal. Enjoyed both bites!


  5. Norah says:

    I love your words, ‘Don’t go’. Isn’t that what we as parents fear – that they will leave; and as you say that would be a pain just too great to bear. Isn’t that why we go creeping into their rooms to make sure they are still breathing, or sit up late at night waiting for them to come home and then on hearing the opening of a door promptly feign sleep? I love the way you went back and forth between the generations, linking the family stories. I love the way you name your characters. it makes them easily identifiable and creates a powerful back story. Thanks for sharing both pieces.


    • TanGental says:

      Oh wow Nora that is a fantastic comment and so encouraging. I love the bit about checking on them breathing. I vividly recall standing with my wife debating whether the lad was breathing and fetching a mirror to decide it only to drop it on his nose and wake him up. We were pretty sure then he was alive!


  6. Wonderful piece of memoir! I too thought the weaving of the story between generations was well done, as was the naming of the characters. Relieved to hear all turned out.


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