Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Jack Giles: 4: 9th August 1969?

The 9th August - it's one day that I will never forget.
I woke up that morning with the mother of all hangovers. It was obvious that I had got paralytic because I just could not move.
I just sat there with my back against the settee and my legs stretched out in front of me.
The sun shone through the window and I knew, immediately, that I had woken up in unfamiliar surroundings.
At first, I thought that Tony had got lucky the night before and we had wound up at some girl's house.
My second thought was that there was something not quite right about this room.
Looking around with my right eye - I had to do it this way as my left eye seemed reluctant to open - I took a good look at my surroundings.
Along the opposite wall close to the front window was a sideboard. On top of this was a shiny, black plastic box with a load of dials on it. Next to this was an open fireplace and then a cabinet thing with a small black television on top. On a shelf underneath was another black box that displayed green numbers that changed every so often. Sitting on top of this was a small white box from which a lead ran to a half-moon looking pad with a couple of dials on it.
To the right of the settee was another table with a white TV perched on it.
This made me wonder why anyone needed two televisions in the same room.
This was silly, I thought.
This is just a dream.
I don't get drunk.
I closed my eye and dozed off again. I was pretty certain that when I woke up in the real world everything would be all right.
Only, it didn't work out like that.
I was woken up by a sound. My eye snapped open and there was this fourteen year old kid standing there dressed only in a pair of shorts with a small, silver disc on his finger. He stabbed at the black box on the sideboard and a drawer came out. He slid the disc into into the drawer which closed. After a few seconds the most godawful noise burst around the room as someone began to tell me that they were taking their daughter to the slaughter.
Just what I needed.
I tried to shout out and tell him to turn it down - only I couldn't get the words out.
Maybe, it was telepathy but he spun around, did a double take and turned the sound down.
'Hi, dad,' he said. 'Didn't know you were here.' he pointed at the black box. 'Do you want me to turn the stereo off?'
Stereo?
Stereograms I knew about. Big wooden boxes with a speaker at each end that played stereo and mono vinyl discs. Discs that were black and between 7 and 12 inches. Not small black plastic boxes and small shiny silver discs.
This was way over my head.
'You alright?' he asked.
I shook my head. Let's face it I was shaking all over and I knew that I had to do something about it. Somehow those three weeks that I spent in The St. John's Ambulance, when I was a kid, was telling me that I was going into shock.
The boy came closer and I breathed instructions into his face. I couldn't speak and it was the only way that I could do it. He got the message and was soon back with a black mug full of hot, sweet tea.
This kid, obviously, had a sense of humour for when I took a closer look at the mug it had the picture of a man in black with a wide brimed hat and underneath was the logo 'The Undertaker'.
While I was drinking the tea the boy turned off the 'stereo' and asked if I wanted the TV on. I shrugged, he took it as a 'yes'.
I had to blink.
This wasn't happening.
Colour TV?
What happened next - was going to throw me completely.
He took what looked like a book from the shelf above the TV and shoved it into the box with the green numbers on it. Suddenly, the screen was filled with a wrestling match. All I could see was a man in black approaching the ring who looked like the guy on the mug.
Right then I felt like the hero from H.G.Wells 'The Sleeper Awakes'.
Books that you put in a machine and the words came alive?
I passed out.
Concious again and the boy was dressed now and he was still in front of the TV watching a cartoon of a girl jumping and climbing over some ruins. Well, it looked normal until the girl made another leap and his body jerked as though he was jumping with her. That was when I saw that black half-moon pad in his hands.
It was too much.
'What are you doing?' I croaked, a sound that brought a smile to half my face.
'You okay, dad?' he asked, with concern.
'No, man,' I grunted back. 'Can't move.'
'Want me to call mum?' he asked.
I shook my head: 'Don't disturb her.'
He just shrugged: 'I'll text her anyway.'
Too much information and I just couldn't handle it - and I needed the toilet.
Only I couldn't just get up and walk - just couldn't get up. My left side had no intentions of doing what my brain told it to do. And I couldn't ask the boy to help -partly, because pride got in the way and partly - well the boy had disappeared.
Labouriously, I crawled or dragged my body up the room and got out into the hall. Through the door opposite I caught sight of a bath. Thank goodness for that - a downstairs loo. But by the time I got there and dragged myself up onto the edge of the bath I was too late.
That was where the boy found me. He said nothing but went off and got some clean clothes and helped me dress and undress.
Just as we finished the telephone rang and he told me to stay where I was.
I heard him say: 'Hi, mum. Yes, it's me - Jack. Dad's in a bad way. He can't walk properly and his face is all lopsided...............OK, mum, see you when you get back.'
When he came back he looked very serious: 'Mum and Scott will be back tomorrow. Mum thinks you've had a stroke. You want me to call an ambulance?'
I shook my head.
I didn't want to go to hospital - it was the logical thing to do - but something inside me made me resist it.
Maybe, it was just that I couldn't leave my son home alone.
There were other horrors that I would face that day - like seeing a lopsided, old man's face in a mirror seen through the eyes of someone who was convinced that they were still 24.
Only that morning I had believed that it was 1969 - but by the time that I went to sleep that night I knew that it was the 9th August 1999.
I had somehow managed to lose thirty years of my life.
Devastating as that was - I had to look at the plus side - I may have had a son that I don't recall growing up but that kid was a man that day. He stood by me. His was the shoulder that I leaned on.
His name is Jack Foster and I am proud of him.

3 comments:

Steve M said...

Powerful post Ray. One, that I guess, would have been hard to write.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Back in 2004, in the course of treatment for an unrelated problem, I was told I needed to go on medication, permanently, for high blood pressure. My first inclination was to scoff. I didn't want to become a slave to daily pill-taking. I was told if I didn't I ran a hugely increased risk of stroke.

What Steve rightly calls your powerful story, is a very, very strong reminder to people who have not had your horrific experience. Taking the pills is a small price.

Keith

ARCHAVIST said...

I read of your story in the interview in the Writers magazine and I thought it was a heart warming tale of courage. After reading this post I'm even more in admiration for the way you beat the illness and got back in the saddle.