Hypnotic, cadenced sounds from the bellows of the pressurized iron lung was forcing my lungs and diaphragm to expand and contract. It inhaled the breath of life and exhaled the fear of the unknown. It was in some kind of musical rhythm with the ceiling fan above my head, circulating the aroma of freshly baked bread, cookies and apple pie. I knew it had to be close to Christmas.
The last thing I remembered was the spinal tap. They told me not to move or raise my head after they were finished, but what did they know. I was a strong, indestructible and healthy 12-year-old, I could do whatever I wanted to do. Now, here I am with tubes down my throat, IV’s in my arms and completely paralyzed. I could blink my eyes, wiggle my ears, talk and smile- that was it. What a shock!
Christmas day arrived on time and all the rooms in the polio hospital were overflowing with gifts, Visitors weaved their way into all the rooms, visiting children they knew and giving presents to families they didn’t even know. Needless to say, my parents were still in shock. Seeing their only adopted son on what they thought was his death bed was something they couldn’t overcome.
Over the grinding sound of the life giving bellows, I kept assuring them I would survive, not to worry and that everything would be fine. Being the eternal optimist, I still felt I was indestructible. Almost seven decades later, I still have that positive attitude about life.
At high school age, I realized we always live in the “now.” As I began feeling the weight of aging; I realized I also live in memories of the past, or the “then,” begging the question: is there a future? After all; if our life is a composite of our now and then, how can there be a future beyond then? Just a thought.
The older and less active I become, the more I think about the good and bad memories of my past. Not to the point of being melancholy or sad but as reminders of where I came from and how I landed in this collective dimension of time and space.
Every Christmas, I create new memories with family, friends and the ones I love. I reflect on my experiences in life and give thanks for my journey from the confines of the iron lung to the inconvenience of old age.
I don’t know about my future; but I do know everything will be fine. And, that I’ll always be grateful for every now and then I will experience in my life.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.