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1. Bionic or Just Plain Lucky
When I was born in 1919, life was kind of primitive according to today's standards. A midwife came to the house to attend to my mother, did the housekeeping for about a week, that was it. No doctor or well wishers, no length measurements or weight. Only a lot more trouble and work for Mom. She knew that I was coming, so she never complained.
When I grew up, nothing special. Of course the usual colds, scrapes and bruises. These were all lessons I had to learn to get ahead in this unforgiving world. One thing stands out clearly in my mind, which could have been devastating and come close to stopping me from getting any older. I call it the Bike Tragedy.
2. The Bike Tragedy
When I was around 9 or 10 years old, our aunts and uncles came on a yearly visit to our home.
I had just mastered the riding of a bicycle. My aunt, tante Geertsje, had a bike with a solid drive, that is a bike with the pedals connected to the rear wheel, with no freewheel. I knew I would be able to drive that machine even that I could not reach the pedals, they would come back so I would be able to kick them when they came around again. I also knew I should not take it, but my little devil kept on telling me, "Take it for a trip, they will never find out if you put it back again."
So I followed the advice of the Satan in me, and mounted the machine. Sitting on the back carriage, barely reaching the handle bars, I headed out. Hoorah, I made it. Then about 200 meters down the road, my right hand slipped off the handlebars, which pulled the bike to the road into the mud-filled ditch. Then I lost consciousness. I was sure for a long time, because when I took off with the bike nobody was around. When I came back to reality, there were a whole bunch of people, including my Dad. Coming home, he threw pails of water over my shaking body until the filth washed away. I learned my lesson the hard way. Never trust the little devil who was always on full alert.
3. Trouble At Sea
When we came to Canada on the Tabinta, an old freighter converted into a troop transporter during WWII, now used as an emigrant ship. I got an awful toothache. The fellow who took care of me admitted he was no doctor or dentist because there was nobody on board of that nature. So I told the fellow, "Oke, Doctor, go ahead and take the pain away." So he found the broken tooth, the top was gone but the root was giving me trouble. "I have to dig them out, it maybe painful, because I don't have anything to make it easy." The next episode was like having a trip on a roller coaster. The torture was like I passed out, came to, passed out again, came to again, etc. After it was healed, no more pain.
Later on around 1952, when we lived in Fort Francis, I was having trouble with my tonsils. The doctor said, "Not to worry. We don't fix or repair them, we take them out." "Why do I have them if they are of no use?" His answer was too complicated for me to make sense if I had no more tonsils. After the operation, I asked the nurse if I could have them. I could cook them. They looked so delicious. No luck, she probably took them home to treat her cat to mouse on. When I asked Doc how much for the operation, he said, "$25.00. Pay when you can!" Yes, those good old days. I paid him when I got my wages. Good old timer.
4. Many Useless Parts
In 1957, one Wednesday, we had a delicious supper, then I threw it right up. I tried again, but nothing would stay down, not even water. This went on till Saturday. Then Mom called Doctor Purden and explained. He came right over. They dragged me in his car and took me to the Hospital on Riverside Drive. They expected acute appendicitis. They cut me open and found nothing wrong, so they put it back again. Back to the guessing game. Now they took out everything that was not nailed down, including 30.5 cm of my intestines and threw that away. The doctor said, "If this had happened 20 years ago, we could not have saved you. One part was totally blocked." Doc explained. "It took 37 years so you fellows could do a job on me. Wow, thank you all."
5. Man Against Machine
Then some years later, I got caught in a duel with a chain and a tractor. The tractor won, I was left with a torn cartridge in my left knee. They took it out, now 50 years later, my knee is in better shape than the right one which never gave me any problem. Amazing for sure. I learned in this case, never challenge a man-made piece of equipment. Another lesson learned, so true Mom always said when I was 95, "Kid, you have to learn as long as you live."
In 1983, somehow I tripped, fell on my knee, split my knee cap in two, now what, I could walk no more. Then I realized how wonderful it was that we had doctors who knew what they had to do. They put a cast on my leg and told me to take it easy for a month. I was lucky, Bill had a pair of crutches when he was in a head-on collision on Broadway some time ago. For a month or so, I struggled around like a three legged dog.
6. Never a Dull Moment
Later in life, I had the most gruesome pain a person could stand without passing out. It turned out to be a kidney stone. The pain came and went, and kept on repeating. It lasted for a while, then faded away, maybe about ten minutes, then came back with a vengeance. I heard once that you could climb a wall, indeed, I really felt I could when I was in this unbelievable pain. Doc said, "We can blast it. We can cut it out, or maybe it can come out by itself." We decided to cut it out. While lying on the operating table, the doctor said, "Let us take another look." "Hoorah, the stone has moved. Cancel the operation." It left the natural way through the urinal canal. The stone was sent for traces of cancer, result negative. When I say kidneys are useful, it gives the feeling that you're not so superior.
7. How About a Swelling Head
Something went all haywire, what it was, or how it started is still a mystery to me. "It is all in your head," Margaret, my dear wife told me. It could not be caused by termites I told her, because I might have a wooden head but I didn't have no termites in it. Off to the doctor again. He said, "Take some Penicillin. You have an infection." So now I was on a drug trip. Did it get better? No, it did not. Now what, doctor? "We have to punch a hole in your eardrum to let the poison out. The nurse positioned on one side, a jab in my ear, doc grabbed me and let me down gently. They left me there until I got up and thanked them for whatever happened.
8. Choppers Again
Over the years, I had many teeth pulled and or filled, but now there was no more hope. The dentist put me in the hospital, took all that was left of my uppers. It was a bloody mess, so I had to stay overnight, in case the bleeding would not stop. Next morning, all was the way it was supposed to be, so they let me go back home again. From that time on, I have been chewing with my own plastics replacement gums.
9. My First Colored TV
During the time of the black-and-white TV era, if the big picture tube was ready to burn out, the center started to turn brown. Well, I had the same situation with my right eye. It started to get a brown spot. My doctor made an appointment with a specialist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. The doctor's assistant could not find a vein on the top of my hand to squirt some whisky, beer or something in. She tried and tried, again and again, until I passed out. Maybe they thought I was under the DUI influence already. They put me on the floor with my feet on a chair until I got up to see what they were up to. The doctor said, "We cannot go ahead, you have to make a new appointment." So off I went for home. Then the most surprising event occurred, the brown spot disappeared. This happened about thirty years ago. Never saw the brown spot again.
10. The Exhaust System
Then something went haywire in my exhaust system, I had a hemorrhoid said the doctor. What in the world was a haemorrhoid? Was it something you could eat or drink? He did not reveal the secret and I was afraid to fix it myself. Doc said, "You have to come back so we will remove the trouble makers." It turned out to be an operation and a very bad one. They made a mess of it. For years, I have been having trouble with it, and it is still a nuisance today. Luckily for the doctor, if this had happen in the United States, I would have sued for $60,000,000.