Both my younger brother, Chuck, and I had awful childhood allergies and managed to catch any sinus infection or strep throat going around in the 1950’s in Atlanta, Georgia. So in 1961, when we were 5 and 7 years old, our parents made the decision, popular at the time, to have our tonsils and adenoids removed. This is the story of how our mother and father made that an unforgettable experience.
I don’t remember the drive to Egleston Hospital on Clifton Road, but I certainly remember the ride home. Chuck and I were both in pain, and rather than have us sit up on the short three mile ride home, they borrowed a neighbor’s station wagon so we could travel lying down. We’d never gone anywhere like that, and I remember we both thought that was pretty amazing. This was the first wonder of recovery: lying down in a huge, mustard yellow station wagon with “wooden” panels on our ride home from the hospital.
When we arrived, rather than put us in our own separate bedrooms, Mom and Dad pulled out the sleeper sofa in our small living room and laid us down together. We’d never been allowed to sleep on the sofa bed which was reserved for guests. Things in the living room were breakable, and we weren’t encouraged to spend any time there, period. This was a second wonder of recovery.
The third wonder was the Coke machine. It wasn’t a real machine, but rather a bright red and white plastic box with a red ball on the end of a lever. When pulled, a Coke bottle on the other side lifted. We had Coke shaped glasses perhaps four inches tall, and all the Coke we wanted. With no McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants, this device seemed truly magical. The only other place you could get a Coke poured like this was in drug stores or restaurants. I was on the right side of the bed, and so was the Coke machine . . . at least for a while.
I expect the first day of recovery went well since both Chuck and I felt so bad that we didn’t bother each other. Soon after, though, someone must have gotten loud about her brother’s requests, or him about hers, because the Coke machine was moved to the left side of the bed, his side. What can I say – I’m the older sister.
A fourth wonder of recovery began when Mom brought us ice cream and popsicles any time of day. Almost six decades later, I remember well how much my throat hurt. Those cold treats – usually reserved for after dinner or hot summer afternoons – slid down my burning throat, and I felt such relief. How very much it hurt to swallow! Both of us asked for them often as we healed, and, amazingly, we got them.
I don’t remember much after that, except the neighborhood kids coming in, more to look at the Coke machine than to cheer us up. We went back to our separate bedrooms and recovered from an operation now discouraged and which may even result in a higher risk of asthma and respiratory infections as adults. I can only imagine how mortified my parents would have been if they had known. What can I say – they did the best they could.