Saturday 12 June 2010

the one about the hospital, a killer python, and getting into trouble

I commented on a post from Sian a couple of weeks ago that I wished I could share stories from my childhood. I don't have any photos (when my parents divorced, my dad kept everything, and last I heard he had got rid of a lot of stuff... but my relationship with my dad is a story all on it's own...), and a lot of my memories are tainted with bad family relationships, but I think I'm getting to a place where I can at least blog them for my kids.

In October 1983, my dad jumped off the roof and broke his leg and spent a month in hospital. That's the short version of the story. The long version of the story is the one where he was only up on the roof (he hates heights), because one of the workmen was sick, so he was lending a hand pulling a steel girder up for the roof on his factory extension. The guy at the other end slipped, so dad jumped from the ladder (at roof height) to avoid being crushed by a steel girder.

He tucked and rolled across the grass, stood up, and thought he had corked his leg, so shook it to loosen the muscle (it's funny the details that become the stuff of family legend... I haven't though about this incident for years!)... a few hours later the day was over, and he stood up to walk to his car and fell over. Mum rushed him to the hospital where they discovered that when he rolled he had broken the top of his leg (just below the ball joint at the top of his leg) He was rushed off for surgery and pinned, staying in hospital for a month with his leg in traction.

All this we found out much later. The first I knew about it was coming home from school (we were latch key kids, mum worked with dad), and mum was home, on the phone to someone (the hospital, it turns out). The electrician, Mr James, was installing mum's new gas hotplate, but dad hadn't finished working on the kitchen (and wouldn't finish it until we moved five years later)

Mum told us dad was in hospital, but I don't remember much more explaining than that. She took dinner to him that night, but we weren't allowed to see him yet. I think it was two days before we visited him in hospital. The hospital was two blocks from our house, so for the month dad was there it became routine for my sister and I to get home from school and then walk to visit dad (we lived in Horsham, in country Victoria, it's grown up a lot in twenty years!)

The week before he came home he was taken out of traction, and was allowed to be wheeled around in a wheelchair. One day he was wheeled into the garden when my sister and I arrived, and he asked us to go across the road to the fish and chip shop and get him some chips. We were gone for ages, because we couldn't decided what we wanted to spend our twenty cents on, and he was pretty cranky when we got back.

"Who said you could spend twenty cents?" he asks. "You did" is my answer. "No, I didn't", he says "but I was going to let you go back when you brought me my chips" I had such a hard time swallowing that killer python (yep, it only cost twenty cents!), and we left him soon after. Dad came home from hospital at the start of the following week (the day of my brother's third birthday), and I've never had a long association with hospitals since then.

{one day I'll share the one about the freezer... it's nothing big, just a safe place to sit...}


  1. Now that's a good story! And I bet you do have more just waiting to come out. Bits of my childhood were sad too - I lost my dad when I was 12 and then my mum got sick - and I think that's why I pick out one nice little detail that's a happy one and make my story from that.

    Go on, Cate..tell us another x

  2. I love that you shared this story. It's ironic that you shared this story because I have been deep in thought lately about my own dad. It happens every year about this time right before Father's Day when I feel obligated to find a neutral Father's Day card to send to a man I haven't seen in 14 years. Thanks for sharing this little peek into your childhood. xo

  3. The title of your post was just too intriguing to pass on (even though I have a million things to do before we have friends turn up to watch the football tonight!)
    This was a great story. Sian's right, you have to find that happy or funny or silly part of a story and find a way to concentrate on that part. Which is what you have done here - great story, well told!

  4. Great story-telling Cate! I'm fortunate to have a Dad whom I admire & love but I can sympathise with you because not everyone is perfect especially my own Dad!! lol. Keep up the good work & tell us another soon xx

  5. The stories that we have to tell are so important - I'm glad you've told this (and I'm curious to know what happened next...) and your children will be glad too.
    I've just said goodbye to my mother, and I'm kicking myself now that I didn't ask her to tell me more of her stories. Write them down, all of them; I'm sure they are a gift to your kids and I imagine perhaps liberating for you.


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