Sunday, September 23, 2012

My mother recalls the day the wall fell on me: 

"I heard what sounded like a landslide outside: I was in the kitchen. The neighbours' flint wall had collapsed, and you were pinned behind an old wooden trunk from Portugal, which saved your life. Frank Turner [a neighbor] came over to help get you out of the rubble and onto the sofa.
I only know that Dr. Babbage was quick, that he tried to get your nice cord trousers off but your leg was bent at a right angle; I told him to cut them off, of course. He was able and kind. I have no idea how long the ambulance took; you went to Bury St Edmunds hospital (the old one). I have vivid memories of all that, of riding in the ambulance with you (it was 14 miles to Bury then and you were in shock) and of the ordeal you went through when we got to the hospital. And I remember the Lavenham visitors you had as well [so many visitors, and such kindness and generosity], and the [stodgy food the hospital] tried to feed you, and keeping salad and salad dressing in the nurses' fridge and of your over indulgence in olives! One of the nurses claimed to be a cousin of American Western TV star [Doug McClure]. Because of your traction, you had to stay in the lounge, which meant you didn't get much sleep as the nurses watched TV late!" 

I was in traction for three months. I remember one particular night the nurses were watching Moby Dick, the 1956 John Huston/Ray Bradbury version, with Gregory Peck. I could see the TV screen quite clearly from my bed. It seemed like the movie went on all night, but of course it didn't. The "great white whale," Moby-Dick, took Captain Ahab's left leg, and the vengeful Ahab is said to be literature's most famous sufferer of phantom limb. At the time, my left leg was wrapped in bandages and hoisted up in the air with ropes and pulleys; I was essentially lashed to my bed, just as Ahab was lashed to the whale. I watched transfixed that night at the hospital, as Peck's peglegged Ahab met his doom, trapped against the whale, unable to save himself from a terrible demise. Ahab and me.

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