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Monday, August 22, 2011

Jan's Dad

Here is the beginning of Jan's story of her dad.

My dad was different than Joanne’s dad.  Her dad got sick when she was young and managed to keep going.  My dad was always a fragile kind of person physically and when I was 9 he went away.  My friends all thought my dad had died and didn’t mention his absence so I wouldn’t be sad.  I knew my dad was in a hospital in Columbus, but because I was only 9 and they thought he had tuberculosis, I was not allowed in the hospital to see him on my mothers bi-weekly visits.  I was in the 4th grade.  I remember having to go to the Morley Health Center to get a tuberculosis test.  It was a round quarter sized mark on my arm.  I did not have it.

 Janice about 9 years old

I was 11 when he returned.  He was not a broken man, but he looked broken.  His health issues had taken quite a toll on his body.  His tuberculosis turned out to be histoplasmosis, but it took the doctors 9 months to figure that out and start a different treatment.  I believe he said there were 9 men in the ward with him with the same disease, but he was the only one who survived.  His theory for his survival was that he took his treatment drips as drips were meant to be, done slowly; his compadres took it as quickly as they could get it dripped into them.  My theory for his survival is that I could not be allowed to grow up without a dad.

One of his treatments was to collapse his lung because it had lesions on it.  That didn’t work for long, his lung partially reinflated and the surgery had to be redone.  His ribs had been cut away for the first surgery and had pretty much regrown, but the second time the ribs did not grow back.  So without the ribs on the right side of his body, his spine became crooked and he suffered from pinched nerves and migraines for the rest of his life.

Those years when he was gone were very hard.  Mom worked to put Joanne through college.  Walter was in the Air Force and Melvin was a troublesome teenager with wild friends.  I was just an innocent child with a few friends, growing up in complete ignorance of the troubled times I was living through.  We made it through.   I grew up.  My dad was around until I was 25.

All those years were borrowed time.  He spit in a bottle, stuff he coughed up from his lung, every six months and it got sent to a lab some where for analyzing.  He said for every 6 months that he lived he made medical history for the survival rate of histoplasmosis.  It was a disease not much was known about in 1963, only that it was an air born disease probably caused by bird droppings.  It can lie dormant for years and one day can get you.  More is known about it these days and the treatment is still a couple of years long and people recover from it.  Lots of people are exposed to it with nothing more than flu like symptoms; they never even know they had it.

Another bit will be forthcoming as time permits.  Here's a wonderful childhood picture of Jan and neighborhood friends.  She thinks she was six or seven and it must be about back to school time because it's her back to school haircut.  When I scanned it larger than the original I pointed out dad's dirty feet and her dirty hands were in close competition.  We laughed.  Dirt on kids was a big part of growing up at our house.

1 comment:

  1. Dirt was a big part of kids' being at that house. I can remember summers having to take a bath EVERY DAY because we were so filthy from head to toe. And I mean FILTHY. Dust from the pit, dust from the little overhang above the pit at the end of Gardendale where we spent so many days. Ring around the tub was a daily occurrence!