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February 17, 2018

Growing up in Louisa – Pain Pays!

Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

We’ve all heard the comment, ‘no pain, no gain.’ In this week’s article I intend to explore the benefits of being hurt! While the concept seems foreign to most of us, since we go through life trying to avoid pain. I recall what I think is a Yogi-ism, “If it ain’t worth doing, then it ain’t worth doing.” This kind of falls within the thinking that you get ‘what you pay for.’ Granted, most pain comes as a complete surprise to us because we rarely seek that result from our actions. In fact, luck may play a hand in that innocent bystanders sometimes suffer by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, Suzy and I have three young grandkids that are spending most days and evenings with us. The action of this trio reminds me of those days of long ago where I, too, acted in much the same ways. When experiencing a sight bump, or even a tiny scratch, we humans tend to run to mom for sympathy. She will hopefully make it alright. Dutifully, she kisses the tiny wound and makes it better. I suspect this is a commonality with civilizations around the world, but I can only speak about local practices that I experienced when I was growing up, as well as those with our children growing up. Everyone knows instinctively that mom’s kisses, heals. In a worst-case scenario, dad’s kiss will fill in if mom is absent.

 If a little blood happens to be secreted from a wound, it was clearly time to apply a Band-Aid, or a reasonable facsimile. Over time bandages have become a fashion statement of their own, some with cartoon pictures, or Batman logos. Back in the day, we were a lot more limited in those medical resources. I recall that once or twice I had to wear some gauze taped to whichever appendage was hurt. The tape used was strong, so much so that it had to be ripped to be removed. The pain of that was often worse than the original injury. I remember mom ripping up an old sheet or some t-shirt fabric to make bandages, or perhaps a sling for a hurt arm or shoulder. Making do was what life was about in those days.

 A spinoff benefit from getting hurt was that the poor wounded soul would gain the admiration of their friends. When my peers saw that I had braved yet another serious accident of some sort, I was eligible to receive some well-deserved sympathy. What kid doesn’t like loads of attention? I recall being asked what happened. I was glad to relate the gruesome details that had inflicted the underlying damage to my otherwise perfect knee, arm, elbow, or whatever. Sometimes I would even lift the edge of the bandage to expose the horror of the wound. After joining in play, except in the worst of cases, the gauze or bandage would slip off, only to be forgotten by all. Its purpose was served, after all. There was no need to be braggadocios.

Jacob, the youngest of the three grandchildren staying with us, is a shadow around the feet of my poor wife. There’s always a risk that she might trip. He blocks her path while raising both hands and dancing while repeating ‘Hold me.’ Suzy has little choice but to bend down and pick up the child. Once accomplished, she can continue her vacuuming while balancing little Jacob on her hip and trying to use a free hand. Seeing her despair, I try to help by winding up the other two children through teasing or via distractive play. While this might have an undesirable effect, I consider it a ‘cop out,’ to simply turn on cartoons. On the other hand, they do tend to mesmerize the kids and bring a level of quietness. There’s something good about that! With the vacuum running I am forced to turn up the sound so I can hear the dialogue. These sounds make me want to sneak off to some quieter environment, but I confess that I am learning the names of ourfavorite cartoon characters. I think I’ve even formed a bond with one of them.

 I was a young fellow living in Louisa when my best friend, Billy Elkins, broke his leg playing baseball on the Moore’s lawn at Main & Lock Avenue. I think someone told me that that big old house is Bud Adams’ office these days. I saw Billy go down when it happened and I still believe that I heard the bone crack. I went with him to the Louisa General hospital and there in the basement watched the doctor set his leg. I must say that he held up well under the pain. I thought he was brave, but of course I knew nothing of what he was really feeling. I gave him credit for undergoing extreme torture. Now, some people would see a broken leg as something negative, but this was an opportunity to enjoy a much more fame than that caused by a mere scratch. Indeed, this was a major event! While Billy found that his movements were restricted, he had something far better than a patch of gauze. He had a real, honest to goodness, cast!

I remember kids from all over town showed up to wish him well and to sign his cast. Then, even better, they would rush to open doors for him and assist the poor fellow with his wheelchair or crutches. In some ways, for a time, he was king. No one could upstage Billy. At least not while he still had a limp, or a cast, the wheelchair, or other associated gear. I know that I was impressed enough to show up at his house every day that summer. We’d pass baseball while he sat in the wheelchair. I brought him books, magazines, and toy army tanks. We’d always try to make a fun day of it, for sure. I felt it was my job to help him find happiness in his restrictions. I’d like to think I may have made his life a little better. We reminisced about this the last time I visited with him. What fun it is to think back to the fun times, or even the not so much fun times.

For certain, there were lots of ways to get hurt while growing up. We were careful to stay away from any real danger, but when it came to our taking slight risks, we were, after all, boys. We jumped onto a moving train boxcar a few times, ran down some very steep hills, went frog-gigging at night, shot at rats at the town dump, and lots of other fun things. Sports are an obvious way to get hurt, but bike wrecks, or running into trees, buildings, clotheslines, briar patches, or taking a tumble down a hill, were a common way to earn that sticky merit badge. For example, I remember when my bike’s front wheel was caught in a slot at a railroad grade crossing and I went flying over the handle-bars. That fall left me with gravel and cinders buried in the heal of my hands, elbows, and knees. The debris had to be picked out with tweezers and then swabbed with alcohol before bandaging them. Talk about pain…ouch! Other badges of bravery included slings, stiches, and any recent blood showing on patches or clothing. While these were good to have they often came with a cost. Once hurt, though, they paid off by obtaining the desired effects of people’s admiration and sympathy.

There were limits, thank goodness. Because of the warnings from mom, I always had a higher level of caution when I was around highways, train tracks, caves, wells, a rushing stream, or a mean bull discovered in a farmer’s fenced lot. I still remember the movie I saw at the Garden Theater when I was a little kid that portrayed a boy that was gored by a bull. To prove that all movies don’t have happy endings because he died. I cried all the way home. I’m not sure which movie it was, but it was traumatic enough for me. Maybe it was the ‘Song of the South?’ Sure, we all knew that taking certain risks could have potentially serious consequences and put our parents into mourning. It was always a hard thing to figure out how much risk was worth taking, but I tried to be sensible, at least for a rambunctious boy.

Some of us will remember the days when doctors made house-calls. I think I had every childhood disease possible. One or two of the illnesses I had scared everyone, including the doctor. I’m not sure if it was Dr. McNabb, Dr. Sheely, Dr. Joe Carter, or someone else. At the top of the list of maladies, I had the measles, whooping cough, mumps, chicken-pox, the flu, and some illnesses with names that are no longer used. I remember times when I laid there in bed feeling just plain rotten. Even if I knew I had ‘thus and so,’ I had no idea if this one might take my life. Sadly, mom couldn’t kiss those wounds and no one would come around offering sympathy. What a waste!

 It was normal in those days to post a quarantine notice on the front door to alert visitors to go away and try their visit on another day. Strangely, there were parents that would bring their child over with the express purpose to expose them to the nasty germs that had made me sick. If a parent loved their child then why would them put them through the pain? I figured I’d know when I grew up. Guess I was wrong since I still don’t understand.    

I’m sure that it was common practice for kids to sometimes play sick. Usually this happens when an event is scheduled that the child wants to avoid. I remember my cousin George putting a lit match under his thermometer so his mom would think he was sick. I don’t think it worked. I guess he wanted to avoid a test, or maybe some bully, but when the doctor was summoned the jig was up. Also, if you convinced the doctor you were really sick you were at risk of getting some nasty medicine, or getting a shot in the butt. That never felt good and it was sometimes a bit embarrassing, too. Mom gave me Castor Oil all the time and Cod liver oil, too. I must have been one oily kid. Yuk!

As a people, we should be about helping the infirm through their pain and by giving them support even when we can do little to really help. We should not miss an opportunity to bond with our kids, either. Whether by holding, kissing, or reassuring them, or whatever. We can find ways to help them bear the pain. We can share the burden, help with that load, and empathize, for goodness sake. If we can identify the spot of the hurt, you can cover it with a band aid. It shows you care.

 As a young person there is a tendency to milk an injury for all its worth. When helped off the football field, a teen often can’t wait to get back out there and take another hit for the team. In the military, some soldiers can’t wait to be discharged from a field hospital and get back to serving with their units. While injury isn’t a good thing for soldiers, Purple Heart, or not, they learn from their mistakes and become ‘battle-hardened.’ At the same time, some may have seen all they can handle. They will carry those scars to the grave. Sorry, mom and dad can’t kiss away those wounds to make them better. Still, for us old codgers, a cane, or a slowing gait can get doors opened for you and maybe earn you a senior discount. Get enough of the bumps of the world you get a handicap tag. Even then, there’s degrees of pain that can’t be seen, or understood.

As adults, hurt still comes to us in all kinds of ways. It might be the death of someone close, a divorce, a serious health threat, the loss of a job, a business failure, or an accident. Blessed are those who have support during these times. Some continue to carry the pain, often eschewing encouragement or withdrawing from society. I think we have an obligation to reach out and give encouragement when we can. We should give everyone a message of hope and remind them they are loved.

I’ve seen good people carry in dishes of food, dropping by with a dessert, or even taking in crops for a farmer laid-up in bed. That’s a good side of human nature. I wish there was more random acts of kindness. If someone helped you when you needed it, write and tell me. I’d enjoy knowing about your experience. My intent was to show that sometimes there are benefits in getting hurt. With that, I wish for you that all your hurts be kissed away and be made better. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

     

Comments  

0 #1 Bernard 2018-02-18 17:18
Good Morning Mike, another good article that I really relate to. Sharing the pain with our youngsters & friends seem to come naturally. Kissing a child's boo-boo to make it better to hugging a friend or love one who has lost someone yet we humbly try. As for my getting hurt, I remember one time when we lived in Barboursville, WV. about 39 or 40, I was in the top of our apple tree, swaying back & forth, zip out of the tree I came, hitting the branches on the way down, getting several pump knots on my head and breaking my arm, I was about 6 at the time, WOW my mom was really mad, but loved me, wrapping my arm& taking me to the doctor to have a cast put on it.
I doubt if that taught to listen more to what she was telling me or not, but a great Memory of growing up. Yes I wonder from thing to thing, sorry about that, again, I enjoyed the article, had a few chuckles, and as always, "Thanks for the memories".
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