MY FIRST MEMORY IS OF BEING on my back in a hospital bed. Never one to rely on the shoddy recall powers of certain family members who seemed to lack the same zing I had for remembering where I put my yesterdays, very early in life I displayed a precocious curiosity for the push and pull of life's levers and diligently stocked my own memory bank with notes and exercises geared to maximize my potentialso I am rather sure, as sure as a consistent list checker can be that my very first memories from the time I first started thing about first memories were burned into this organ when I am a mere two years and months old during this first of eight surgeries I have undergone to date.
Actually, there are two strong memories that have chided me over the years from that two-week summer stint at Brunswick General Hospital where I had my left testes surgically dropped from inside my groin to the exterior scrotum sack, a process most boys experience within the first month or so after birth, naturally, without surgery, but my two danglers were apparently somewhat reluctant to show themselves. The condition, which also affects male fertility, is called cryptochidism.
My problem, a traumatic hit so startling as to abruptly sear its passage into my memory, so that I can reflect upon it in my mind's eye just like it was yesterday, is being left alone for the first time in my suddenly quite conscious life. I am an only child at the time. My mother would birth seven children in seven and a half years, and must have been pregnant with my first brother even then, as I was secretly being prepared to undergo the scalpel in anticipation of growing a pair. But for this strategic moment in the life of a child, I am still the oscillating focus of attention for a small army of adoring adults and doting teenage girls, including my mother's own three much younger sisters who would spoil me with "favorite nephew" affection for the rest of their lives.
The toddler is lying in a hospital bed staring up at young mommy and daddy, 22 and 21 years of age, respectively...
They are telling me they have to leave, but that they will be back the next morning. Yes, as a precocious two-year old, nearing three probably, I understand their English but I feel only the compulsion to reject it. I do not wish to be left alone, and I'm not about to let them slip out of that large beige-walled room without a fuss. It was not totally dark outside yet, but within the room, the light was disappearing. Commencing to scream, I continue to wail without conscience until I am told that my granddaddy would be there to visit me in a couple of days and was bringing me the toy boat he had promised. But, as mem'ry serves, nothing would stop my bellicose screeching, stretching no doubt the tissue of my young pink lungs to the bursting point until after they had left my line of vision.
I had done my job. I had let them know how much I cared about them. Or else I had let them know how little I appreciated being abandoned to a strange place all alone and terrified. There wasn't even a smiling winsome nurse around to help guide me towards the light of an inexplicable future. I seemed to sense that I was simply too young to be left alone. Didn't they know that at least one of them could have slept in the room, in that chair over there in the corner, keeping me company, until the fear and trepidation of being abandoned by Nyx, the primordial goddess of night, had passed? Apparently not. Or else this young couple perhaps still in love with each other, or perhaps the party life, had better things to do. Free night off without the snotty-nosed kid. I could only imagine.
But sure enough, an undetermined number of days later, Granddaddy popped in by himself, and I basked in his bombastic personality. Granddaddy was alone with me and he had a brand new toy boat, blue in color, just like he had promised, and I recall quite vividly us walking the few steps hand in hand to the private bath inside my room, filling the tub with water, and floating the boat and me on the wave of magnificent play time antics only Spud Woodward was capable of generating.
It seems odd that this second memoryas keen as the first one days earlier, which was probably a fragment from the evening before the surgery is not associated with pain of any sort except abandonment, a problem I still suffer in many ways some fifty years later.
My fourth and fifth years were ripe for pneumonic pickings, most of a more pedestrian nature, but we'll leave those for another day.