The Canadian years, 39, the Hobson's choice

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Sunday 21 December 09:26


Fighting for air

My father and mother came in. Good God, what a difference the mother that came in, with the mother who had left the house. She did not walk but shuffled and looked deathly tired. This is not good, I knew with sacred knowledge. Most striking was her breathing, she was very short of breath. Just walking cost her much trouble. She looked extremely fragile and weakened. An unsettled feeling came over me, they had not cured her, they had wrecked her. ‘Mom’, we cried and we wanted to embrace her. ‘Whoa,’ my father, said, ‘let your mother sit down first.' My father peeled off my mother's coat, and my mother sank down a little and the last bit she just dropped into the big easy chair, that could be placed in different positions, from upright to flat out, with in the last position a footstool that popped up. My mother sat down with a forced smile and took a breath and spoke in broken sentences, it took a while before she had expressed how happy she was to be home. Henceforth she would not walk and talk at the same time. The little ones went up to her and put their sweet little hands on her arms and I just looked at her, but our eyes crossed and she nodded at me lovingly.

My father put the TV on and my sister got a pillow and placed that behind her head. In accordance with her nightmarish dream we were already out of step. Her complexion was not healthy, her face was yellowish. ‘Anoxia,’ I thought, she is short of oxygen. My father got a drink for my mother and she drank it through a straw with small intervals. ‘She must absolutely not choke,’ I thought and all cost, we need to prevent her from ever catching acold. I just suddenly wished I was in school, far away from the misery I beheld.

The human body is a miracle of adaptation and the same holds true for the environment of a seriously ill person. We became accustomed to her movements and ways of breathing. After a few weeks she was again shuffling through the room, which was associated with a raspy breathing. There was something seriously wrong with her, at first I could not put my finger on it but then the coin dropped, she was sick, she was not healed. My father explained that my mother had to go through a cycle of cobalt radiation and then I knew for sure. Was I the only one that understood? The rest nodded to this communication and took it as a natural sequel. It just could not be preventive, or was I going crazy? I feared that the radioactive radiation was, to kill the cancer cells that had not been reached. I resolved to consult the Encyclopedia Britannica after class at school and find out everything there was to know regarding Cobalt.


My mother was very tired and needed to rest, and my father put her to bed. I had imagined the home coming differently and I was afraid that what I had seen was just the beginning of a process of deteriorating health. I did not dare to utter that, as my father's superstition had influenced me to a degree and I did not want to call forth misfortune. I was glad that the next day I could go to school and I felt, slightly embarrassed by it, as if I people in the lurch or confronting by something nasty flee away, but I cannot deny it, I looked forward to the protected world of school where nothing had changed.

‘Hey Sugar Lips,’ I heard behind me and Shelly came walking beside me, ‘you're deep in thought, don’t you see your lady love anymore?’ ’I always see you’, I said, ‘even if you're not there.’ ‘You are so cute,’ she said.’ I liked the fact that she called me that but I was cold inside. ‘Hey’, she said,’cheer up, I do not like sad heads.’ ‘Oh, so much happening, in my life man.. you don’t want to know,’ I replied. ‘I am so glad that I can go to school again.’ ‘Well and we are almost there and you are walking beside me. ‘Oh Honeypie,’ I laughed,’ you do not know how you've changed my day.’ She leaned slightly to my and gave me a teasing kiss behind my ear while walking. With a movement that looked like a chicken pecking at one of her own feathers.’Oh’, I heard behind me, it was  Richard's voice, ‘I’ll be, if that is not the family kissey kissey.’ ‘Yes no doubt, that is sugar lips with his lady Honeypie.’ I chuckled and I felt happy for the first time, unscrupulous happy.

 In biology class, when Mr. Everingham wanted to know if there were any questions, I asked about the effect of Cobalt radiation on cell division. He looked startled and then fell back into his proper role of reserved teacher. ‘Young Daniel, that is not subject matter that belongs in this lesson, stay a moment, after class if you have burning questions and I will try to illuminate you.’ After the last hour, I walked straight into the office of my teacher.’ Mr. Everingham, sir?’ ‘Right’, he started, ‘I will answer your question as neutral as possible. Cobalt is a radioactive radiation bombardment of cells. It prevents the genetic code of the respective cell to perform its sub-program, and the cell dies without further components, the cell becomes mutated. The underlying idea is that the healthy surrounding cells are stronger and recover, where the cell you want to destroy, dies.’ ‘What do you think of that underlying idea, Mr. Everingham. Sir,’ I asked him? He rocked his head back and forth and looked ahead past me. ‘That's not really important, young Daniel, it would be just my opinion.’ ‘If you have an opinion on that subject, Mr. Everingham, sir, then I should like to hear that from you,’ I answered.


‘For what that opinion is worth,’ he said, ’a human body is not a bag of cookies, a body is a bit more complicated. The Cobalt radiation also destroys white blood cells as a side effect, the white blood cells that you need for your resistance to fight disease and infection, you know that from my lessons. The cobalt treatment must find a balance between destroying the bad cells and should be discontinued if too many white blood cells are lost and can only be resumed if that comes into balance again. A Hobson's  choice, really. You've heard of Hobson?’ ‘Yes, sir’, I replied, ‘with history, it was the military leader who could choose in a futile attack if he wanted to be destroyed by the left or by the right flank of the enemy.’ ‘That Hobson,’ said my master, ’is the one I was talking about. It's reprieve in most cases, young Daniel, but please note that's only my opinion. It is life sustaining. It is a choice that is no choice. If you know what you want to know, then let it rest, and young Daniel 'keep a stiff upper lip',  don’t show your emotions, which is part of growing up’. He turned and walked away with a slight nod of his head.

I did not go delving into the encyclopedia Britannica, after school. I knew the state of affairs.

San Daniel 2014

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