Friday, September 25, 2015


(pt. 20)
Any number of things come to mind (and well they
should) about my first forays into Avenel life. Drinking
water right out of a hose. I'd never done that before, 
but we had a hose hook-up that was always at the ready.
It wasn't the coldest of water, in fact, in the sun it started
out warm, with some sort of nasty rubbery taste from the
hot hose, until the water ran out enough to at least seemed
chilled. It worked. The hose was a lifesaver. Down towards 
the end of out street, the Route One end, early on, one of
the kid's fathers dropped dead; died in the yard, right there,
after working outside in the heat all day working on fixing
and cleaning up the new yard. As my mother's always
inflammatory reports went, this was typical. As she put it : 
'Don't be outside all day, getting all hot and worked up, and 
then come in here and start gulping ice-water. It will kill you.
That's how Wally's* father died.' The thing was, we were all
told he'd been outside working, all sweated up and hot, came
inside for ice water, and was drinking it right by the refrigerator
when he keeled over. Of course, it was that but more 
than that it wasn't  -  he was, after all, an adult and most 
probably had other medical issues, either being treated or 
being ignored. But she always took things, the most particular, 
and drew it out to the most general and broad cover statement 
she could. I was on to that. It was overkill, always. So, tepid 
water from the hose, which she never knew about anyway, 
and which was probably a bacteria-laced mine field of fetid 
kid-water, that was OK. My mother's medical stuff, anyway, 
was always out in the forefront  -  she herself was a bit of a 
hypochondriac, and quite self-motivated in that regard. Later 
on, about 1962, she underwent  -  having had both rickets (a 
poverty disease, she said), and rheumatic fever as a child  -  
heart surgery to repair a bad valve. It was really early on for 
open-heart surgery. I was away already, in seminary-school, 
but it was quite the nail-biter. Deborah Hospital, Browns Mills, 
NJ; some sort of public-good Jewish heart hospital. I don't know 
the ins and outs, but I think it was cost-free, as long as you agreed 
to be the main attraction that day for the open seating training 
balcony in the operating theater. Training hospital, I'd guess, 
while others, as students and teachers, observed. It worked; she
did have a second such operation, same thing, this time with a 
pacemaker implanted, again at Deborah, about 15 years later 
too. Repeat performance, I guess. 
Back then, too, a guy named Dr. Homer, from Green Street,
Woodbridge, he was still making house-calls. Whenever we, or
anyone in the family, were sick (my father seemed never to get ill)
Dr. Homer would eventually be summoned. My sister or myself 
would be kept home from school, put in our parents' bed for the
day, and the room would be darkened. Chicken Pox, Measles,
Mumps, Whooping Cough, Strept Throat (which I always thought
was 'stripped' throat, 'til later), and anything else. He'd pull up in
his black '49 Ford, and then later a '55 Ford, and walk up to the 
house. He had a little round-topped doctor's bag, or whatever it 
would be called. He'd talk pleasant, check the patient over, diagnose
this or that, while flipping open the two tops of his doctor's bag.
It was filled with little bottles, needles, tongue depressors, alcohol, 
thermometers, all that sort of stuff. It always ended with a needle,
arm or ass, one or the other, and then he'd walk out  -  chatting with
my mother. It was, back then, really another, much simpler world.
No real complications, until you died. That was that. Once I got
hit by the train, all my doctor stuff changed  -  I had to go to them,
they were all in Perth Amboy, or Newark. I never saw Dr. Homer
again. I guess I'd 'graduated'. Two or three years later anyway, it
was all over, I was fine, and all my doctor needs ended. It never
really stopped me in my heedless abandon towards freedom and the
liberty as a boy to shuck everything and run wild. Hell, the world
called, 'we don't need no stinking doctors'; so to speak.

*name has been altered.

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