In the years before and after I was born, my father was very sick with Crohn's disease
. So sick, in fact, that he was on his death bed
twice, according to my mother. And although I don't remember, I waited with her for that
phone call at least once. I cannot imagine how that has determined my life.
As for my birth, for years the arithmetic never worked out--how could I have been conceived while my father was in hospital? (Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto actually.)
As an adult, I was able to piece together the real history of my conception: I was the cortizone kid. The use of this miracle drug allowed my father the strength, and apparant weight, to make a visit home, during which it happenned. For years, throughout my father's stay at Sunnybrook--and he did leave--I was known to staff and patients as the cortizone kid. And I cannot imagine how that has determined my life.
The toll of Crohn's, as any catastrophic disease is beyond belief, let alone imagination. But I have actual evidence of it; on the recommendation of his psychiatrist, my father kept a diary--bibliotherapy. As a creative man, my father mined this life-changing experience for many, many years.
Among the gems he unearthed from this horror, was a radio program. What would now be called docudrama, but which in the early 60's had no such name, my father produced, wrote, and essentially directed the production of an hour's exploration.
I vividly remember him carting around the--then--latest in tape recorder technology, a mamoth, heavy, awkward monster of a thing, with a microphone that was thick, round and long, shiny, and heavy.
One of his novel ideas--and he was always coming up with novel ideas--was to get the sounds of what his life had become, years and miles away from that hospital ward. We discussed what I would say--that was hard: I didn't know what to say or how to act. So, it was decided I would ask questions: How far is it to the nearest star? How big is the earth? And on and on. I was so breathless.
And there was my brother, not on the scene when my father was ill, but definitely on stage during production. My father was concerned he would not be able to act even as well as I had--he was only 3 or 4 at the time--so we conspired to catch him unawares: I got him to watch cartoons while my father hid around the corner, warily holding the microphone just close enough to pick us up.
I tried to distract him, but he saw the mic--and burst out laughing. This accident became an important part of the broadcast.
And it was broadcast on the Trans-Canada Radio Network of the CBC about 1962, or 1963. Reflecting upon it, it is still strange how young my brother and I became radio stars.
Thanks to shmOOnkie pOOnks for the conversation that reminded me.