Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Christmas Story

Okay, here's my Christmas story.

On Christmas Eve 1968, I was six years old. I don't remember too much about the day, although I'm sure that I was as wired as any other six-year old. I do recall seeing the astronauts on TV before going to bed, but that was the last thing I was going to remember for a little while.

My little brother and I shared bunk beds. I had the top bunk, and back then, of course, bed rails weren't all that common. Although I'd slept in that bed for several months, I picked that night to tumble out of the top bunk and crack my melon on the dresser. I must have made quite a noise, because my parents immediately woke up, and discovered me on the floor.

I guess I was bleeding from my ear, so my parents immediately decided to throw me in the car and take me to the hospital. My Dad got this job, while Mom stayed behind with my brother. I have no idea why the thought of calling an ambulance didn't occur to them, but as you'll see, it wouldn't be much of a story if they did that.

Now, understand that we hadn't been in Rochester that long, and my Dad wasn't real familiar with where the hospitals were. He did know the closest was Strong Memorial, which was part of the University of Rochester's Medical Center, and he knew that it was on Elmwood Avenue. So, he drove me there. Being somewhat frantic, he saw a sign that said "Hospital" and immediately turned into the facility. He didn't see a sign for the emergency room, so he pulled right out front and carried me in, anxiously looking for a doctor or nurse to assist me. Well, much to his consternation, the nurse he encountered was adamant that they could not help me, and that we would have to leave. My Dad was usually on an even keel, but I can only imagine his rage at their unwillingness to let me into the hospital. He probably was only half listening when they told him that Strong Memorial was another mile and a half down the road. That probably explains why he didn't figure out for several years that the hospital he tried to check me in to that night was--you guessed it--the loony bin.

Anyway, we get to Strong Memorial, and my Dad carries me in. Now, my Dad was sort of a Rhino-like individual himself, and apparently the combination of unshaven, t-shirt wearing Rhino-like Dad with kid bleeding from the head on Christmas Eve was enough to set off the child abuse alarms even way back then. So, as they worked on me, they gave him the third degree.

This wasn't my Dad's night, but it sure as hell wasn't mine either. When they took a look at the size of me, they apparently got it in their head that I wasn't a six-year old, but a retarded 12 year old. Sigh. They apparently weren't disabused of this notion-or the child abuse scenario-until they managed to wake me up and talk to me.

They then x-rayed me and determined that I didn't have a fractured skull, but that I'd managed to give myself a severe concussion. That meant Christmas morning and several days thereafter would be spent in the hospital. That sucked, but at least Mom brought me the Major Matt Mason moon crawler that Santa left for me. I also got a visit from a local celebrity. There was a guy named Eddie Meath, who was a local broadcaster who spent much of his time raising money to help bring Christmas presents to poor kids and kids who were in the hospital. He brought me some crappy puzzle, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

I had lots of great Christmases when I was a kid, but this is the one that my family still talks about. It wasn't funny at the time, I'm sure, but the loony bin and retarded 12-year old aspects of the story never fail to get a laugh now. I'm still a little pissed about the puzzle though.

Merry Christmas everybody.


Rochester Slim said...

You gotta be kidding me. I think I know you. You're not right. You're more in the Rain Man or Sling Blade mode.

Vinny said...

That's hilarious. I always did think you had some Boo Radley characteristics. I think those doctors may have been close to the truth.