It has been a difficult six week and although I have written lots, I’ve published nada. June is my most difficult month and this year was extreme. June has been my life nemesis month. The seeds of the trepidation I feel for the month of June were planted in my belief system from a very young age. Major life events began happening in June sixty-three years ago when my parents received my diagnosis of polio. June of 1953 saw the end of who might have been and the start of who I am today. So I took the month of June off, spend some time redesigning my site (hopefully more uplifting), examined my life focus and reset some priorities. Enjoy the redesigned me…
As I said June has always been a difficult month for me, even more so this year having reached the grand old age of 66 at the end of May. This was just one of numerous birthday’s I grew up believing I would never see so I never really prepared myself for it. I had never given it any thought and now that I’m here I have no back-up plans. Life, to me, has always been about options and the nature of an option is having an alternative, a back-up plan. That caught me off guard which just made June seem worse this year until Brexit happened. After that, my issue with June seemed pretty petty compared to what many are facing across the pond.
June also represents the end of the school year for many Canadian students and the beginning of a fun summer. To me the end of the school year usually meant being discharged from the Children’s Hospital. The polio generation spend a lot of time in institutions called hospitals but not in the way we think of hospitals today. These were medical boarding homes. Think the Cider House Rules with a couple of operating rooms rather than St. Elsewhere…
With WW2 and Korean vets at all time highs the medical speciality of orthopaedics was really taking off. Polio kids made for a perfect mix of training and experimentation for this emerging field (and I say that with no malice). We were great candidates for procedures that had never been tried before.
My doctor, a former RCAF fighter pilot, studied orthopaedics after the war. I was one of his favourite patients because I was right on the border of what might or might not be. In other words the impact polio had had on me physically made me a good candidate to receive the optimum benefits from a new surgical procedure. I never fought the idea, my parents didn’t either given they had five other kids to worry about and I quite enjoyed being with my polio peers.
I had over a dozen surgeries and only 30% worked the way expected. At the same time they never made anything worse. After eight years I was rid of my leg braces, had metal pins in half a dozen leg parts but it was a lot less than the 40 pounds of metal and leather that had been around my legs. The picture to the left was the pins put into my left hip in 1964 which was removed two years later. However to me it was all worth it because I was able fulfil my biggest ambition at the time, wearing regular “tight” blue jeans and the ability to walk barefoot with the rest of the hippies. I was a person of simple ambition back then. That was my Children’s Hospital persona.
We were kept very busy, we had school, physio, cubs/scouts (and the girls had brownie/guides), arts and crafts night, movie night, homework time, basically all the things done in a home. Parents could visit twice a week for an hour on Wednesday and two hours on a Sunday. Siblings, with pre-arranged visits once a month. To most of my siblings Terry was the kid up there waving at us from the third floor window, now shall we go to the swings. My family were the other kids in the hospital. So every June, with great tread, I would wait to see if I was to be let lose on the world.
I won’t get to much into this right now but the community persona was very different from the hospital persona. Suffice it to say the Terry that lived in the community was a very different Terry who roamed the halls of the hospital. The hospital Terry would have been put in a long term care facility in the 60’s if he didn’t toughen up in the community. To survive in the world you had to be tough and I had a hell of a chip. Nobody was going to tell me what to do or who to be. By about age twelve I was a summertime juvenile delinquent (my street teenage persona). There was no upside to hanging with the chess club.
The attitude combined with a developing limbic system made for very turbulent summer breaks. I have been told by some that my early teen years were like Westside Story without the music but that’s another day.
With the June tread came the beginning of my compartmentalize self being. Compartmentalization is an unconscious psychological defence mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance and seen most often in survivors of tragedy. Today it would probably best be seen as PTSD.
The survival skills I used in the hospital were a very different skill set from what I needed on the street. Of course I didn’t recognize the developmental psychology of the events but in retrospect I can now reframe it. I could not be that person in the hospital and still survive on the street so I adapted and put that Terry into a drawer. I didn’t bring him back out until usually the end of August when I would almost certainly be re-admitted to hospital.
For the past forty years I have shown many sides of my personalty to a wide array of people. I have never shown all of it to anyone but then I wasn’t always aware I was that behaviourally diverse or more succinctly, Gemini. So with June behind me yet again it is time to renew my focus and rediscover my purpose for without purpose you are without life. If I had wanted to just exist I would have kept my hospital persona and went the route of an extended care centre forty years ago. I’m not that easy to get rid of…